MVD Audio 2023
American master of imaginative stroke pursues the genius of melody in the company of high-flying kindred spirits.
As an apprentice of Billy Cobham and Dave Weckl and more than a backbeat sidekick to the likes of Larry Coryell and Mike Stern, Bob Holz has an outstanding résumé, yet the drummer’s solo career started relatively late, in 2012, “Holz-Stathis: Collaborative” being his fifth studio effort and the first to explicitly highlight what was the veteran’s ensembles’ approach from the very beginning: the creative involvement of the Los Angeleno’s stellar colleagues. But though this album seems to up the quotient of guests in comparison to its predecessors, the platter also finds them bring out the best in its composer’s approach to tunes that run the jazz gamut from trad idiom to fusion and touch upon quite a few bases between. And they do so elegantly and stylishly, although with a lot of effortless playfulness which only performers of such caliber can achieve.
Of course, many a listener may focus on the familiar effervescence of “Make Me Smile” – the CHICAGO cover is one of several vocal cuts here, this piece and “Back To You” getting delivered wondrously by Elliott Yamin, while Darryl Jones’ delicate bass strings exquisitely interlock with Holz’s gentle strokes – or concentrate on a little epic, the contemplative, albeit adventurous, “World Turned Upside Down” where John McLaughlin, Jean-Luc Ponty and Ralphe Armstrong weave joint magic for the first time in almost fifty years. Still, it’s footloose opener “The Tunnel” that sets the tone to the record through the mélange of Bob’s Latino grooves spanked into action by Ric Fierabracci’s bottom-end rumble, Randy Brecker’s frivolous blare and Dean Brown’s freewheeling flurries of guitar notes. However, if “Island Sun Love” – soaring high on Diana Moreira’s voice and spiced with her father Airto’s percussion – is full of bossa bliss, and “Volta” in which Bill Steinway’s ivories shine is airy and elegiac, the flute-flaunting “Palo Viejo” marries Renaissance flutter to Balearic abandon and European riffs, and “Side Scratch” emulates large scope of golden-era big bands thrown towards electric-rock malmström – as opposed to “Wondering” that unrolls acoustic idyll for all to bask in.
And if the trumpet-licked “You Can Get It” offers some infectious funky jive, “Flight Of Fancy” locates its dreams in Jamie Glaser’s harmonic axe and Karen Briggs’ violin lines which Holz’s frenetic-but-nuanced drums and Armstrong’s thrum drive to catharsis. And the cleansing is the very gist of this album whose perpetual motion, directed by producer Rob Stathis, will tone up one’s soul and energize one’s brainwaves.