By Martin Longley | Published August 2018
On this triple-vinyl set (or two-CD alternative), bassist Dave Holland returns to the improvising freedom of his early years, a period in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when he worked with Chick Corea’s Circle and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. On Uncharted Territories, Holland rekindles that SME collaboration with saxophonist Evan Parker, alongside a pair of younger Americans, keyboardist Craig Taborn and percussionist Ches Smith.
The results linger between free improvisation and what used to be more popularly termed “Third Stream.” Parker occasionally moves toward his trademark spiraling, but just as often paints a tonally rounded tenor picture, exploring lyrically rich routes. When Smith switches to hard kit-drumming, and Taborn sits out, the results can sound remarkably close to Parker’s trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton. The joy of having 23 tracks is that just as many approaches are available, from soft, tentative transparency to agitated, emphatic spikiness.
“QT12” offers a free-jazz scamper, all hands full-tilt, whereas “Organ-Vibes W1” involves a delicate gathering of tones, Taborn highlighting the percussiveness of his keys, Smith producing an eerie shimmer that would be at home on a soundtrack to one of Roger Corman’s old Edgar Allan Poe movies. During the course of these sessions, it’s exciting to hear Holland move back toward abstraction, but it’s equally desirable to find Parker in a jazzier setting.
Uncharted Territories: Thought On Earth; Piano-Bass-Percussion T1; Q&A; Tenor-Bass W3; QT12; Duo Bass Tenor W3; QW2; Tenor-Piano-Bass T2; Organ-Vibes W1; Bass-Percussion; Tenor-Piano-Percussion T1; QT13; Tenor-Bass-Percussion T2; Piano-Percussion W3; QT5; Tenor-Bass W1; Piano-Bass-Percussion T2; Unsteady As She Goes; Bass-Percussion T1; QW5; Tenor-Bass-Percussion T1; Tenor-Bass W3; QW1. (65:19/65:49)
Personnel: Dave Holland, bass; Evan Parker, tenor saxophone; Craig Taborn, keyboards, electronics; Ches Smith, drums, percussion, vibraphone.