24 September 2010

A Masters' Class in Flamenco Jazz

Dave Holland and Pepe Habichuela: Hands
(Dare2 Records)

Apparently this Dave Holland guy is really something. So my jazz friends tell me, though I have to admit I came to this collaboration more interested in the flamenco angle. Pepe Habichuela is, after all, something of a legend of the Spanish guitar. He's also no stranger to collaboration, having worked previously with artists including jazz trumpter Don Cherry and British-Indian musician Nitin Sawhney. Holland, meanwhile, honed his chops with the likes of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis.

So you could reasonably have very high expectations for an album pairing these two music luminaries. The great news is that high expectations are fulfilled. Hands is a beautiful, patient display of musical brilliance, with the two artists (plus guitarists and percussionists) finding a common language, an overlap between flamenco and jazz with ample room for improvisation.

This dream collaboration came about after Holland met Habichuela in a jazz-flamenco event sponsored by a Sevilla organization. Holland explains:
My idea for doing it was really to enter into the flamenco world. Finding a meeting place is very hard sometimes for two different traditions…I really wanted to treat the flamenco music with respect and not take away from the great stature of that music. I made that clear to Pepe, and I said to him, "Please, would you teach me your music?" He had written a lot of things, and we started working through some songs and different dance forms. A lot of the music is based on dance forms like the fandango and the seguria and the buleria, and many others. I found I had actually underestimated, if that is possible, the beauty of flamenco music.
Where the album includes a couple of jazz-focused tracks ("Joyride" and "The Whirling Dervish"), Hands is otherwise rooted in flamenco, with Holland making contributions within that framework. "I had no intention of putting Pepe in a jazz context and expecting him to play that way," Holland explains. "So for me the real joy of this was to get into Pepe's world and absorb that."

Hands is a joy, filled with the easy brilliance that comes only from years of musical practice and listening. And it's on a fast track to being one of my favorite albums of 2010.

Complete tracklist:
  1. Hands (Fandango De Huelva) [5:59
  2. Subi La Cuesta (Tangos) [5:01]
  3. Camaron (Taranta) [5:43]
  4. The Whirling Dervish [7:33]
  5. El Ritmo Me Lleva (Rumba) [5:52]
  6. Yesqueros (Media Granaina) [3:22]
  7. Bailaor (Seguiriya Cabal) [9:02]
  8. Joyride [5:31]
  9. Puente Quebrao (Buleria) [5:38]
  10. My Friend Dave (Solea) [3:04]
Listen/Buy CD (release date 5 October 2010)
Dave Holland website
Pepe Habichuela bio
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