Dave Holland, Pepe Habichuela – Hands – Dare2 Records DR2-006, 56:45 *****:
(Dave Holland – bass; Pepe Habichuela – guitar; Josemi Carmona – guitar; Carlos Carmona – guitar; Israel Porrina (Pirana) – cajon, percussion; Juan Carmona – cajon, percussion)
For several years, Dave Holland wanted to record a flamenco album. Certainly a bassist who has played with the likes of Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, and Joe Henderson is capable of making a foray into a stylized musical format. Choosing to eschew the pretense of a dilettante, he set out on a three year quest to learn the mechanics, nuance and historical significance of this undertaking. Included in the preparation was a substantial number of performances in Spain, primarily with the iconic Pepe Habichuela. Eventually both artists agreed to record an album together.
Hands, a purely cooperative project, is a heartfelt tribute to the elegance and passion of flamenco music. In concert with the legendary Habicuela/Carmona family (who represent five generations of Granada musical heritage), Holland has established flamenco, and its assorted, related dances, as the primary context of the collaboration. The title cut introduces the guitar mastery that invokes the harmonics of this emotional genre. In a fandango motif, the guitar strumming and notation are precise and intense. Holland gently insinuates a bass line into the song, never eclipsing the thematic content. Tango verve is captured on “Subi La Cuesta”, as a steady rhythm of percussion (including hand claps) and acoustic guitar wrap around an immaculate bass solo. The raw emotion is reclaimed in an eruptive finish. Habichuela’s commitment and technical expertise are scintillating and bring a fierce aesthetic to these spirited incarnations of Spanish culture.
Despite the raucous energy of flamenco, there is a restrained delicacy on several numbers. “El Ritmo Me Lleva” (rumba) uses a gentler cascading strumming, with drifting fades into bass and percussion. A subtle march tempo opens “Puente Quebrao” (a buleria), eventually leading into a bravura tempo break with bass and percussion, that provides a layered subtext to the composition. With a brooding countenance, “Camaron” (flamenco taranta) alters the dynamic, allowing Holland and his nimble bass to play lead at times. Two original jazz pieces, “Whirling Dervish” and “Joyride”, showcase Holland’s songwriting acumen. The spirit of the flamenco has been coalesced with the ensemble chemistry of jazz. Both songs emphasize the intertwined nature of rhythm and imagery, as interpreted by guitar, bass and percussion.
Not only is the music listenable, but idiomatic in the exultant arrangements. Hands is a revelatory musical experience.
TrackList: Hands; Subi La Cuesta; Camaron; The Whirling Dervish; Yesqueros; El Ritmo Me Lleva; Bailaor; Joyride; Puente Quebrao; My Friend Dave
— Robbie Gerson