Molly Holm has been a visionary presence on the Bay Area music scene-as an original member of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra, as a featured singer with Terry Riley and Zakir Hussain, as a Mills College adjunct faculty member-for more than three decades. Her far-ranging artistic pursuits, however, have not included recording an album of her own-until now. Holm's overdue and highly anticipated debut, "Permission," showcases her unique, fully-formed jazz vocal artistry. The CD will be released February 19 on her Rinny Zin imprint.
"It is a debut in the sense that it is her first official offering under her name," writes CD annotator Tarabu Betserai Kirkland, "but given her long and extensive career as a jazz vocalist, improviser, composer, ensemble director, arranger, and educator, "Permission" is more of a continuum than a prologue."
"Permission" combines classic songs by Chick Corea ("Sea Journey"), Joe Zawinul ("Go There Now" aka "74 Miles Away"), Charles Mingus ("Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," with Rahsaan Roland Kirk's lyrics), Mongo Santamaria ("Afro Blue"), and Thelonious Monk ("Straight No Chaser") with six original compositions, some sporting her richly poetic lyrics. Holm's "The Bear" is a gorgeously harmonized a cappella piece performed by ten Bay Area singers, including Linda Tillery, Rhiannon, Raz Kennedy, and Nicolas Bearde, and was inspired by her former Mills instructors Pandit Pran Nath and Terry Riley. On the disc's opener, "Improvised Raga," Holm sings non-word syllables in the Kirana tradition of North Indian raga derived from Pran Nath, one of her major mentors.
"Instead of waking from a dream, I feel like a dream has awakened me!" says Holm. "I've had such wonderful opportunities throughout my performance career-working with, and learning from, diverse and highly-acclaimed artists who know how to push the envelope. And now, to finally bring together my own musical ideas into a single recording, I have to say it does my soul good."
Besides members of Holm's own band-pianist (and CD producer/arranger) Frank Martin, bassist Jeff Chambers, drummer Deszon Claiborne, and trombonist Wayne Wallace-the participants include drummer Famoudou Don Moye, soprano and tenor saxophonist Larry Schneider, vocal percussionist Antonia Minnecola, pianist Bill Bell, bassist Mark van Wageningen, percussionist David Frazier, the late drummers Paul van Wageningen and Eddie Marshall, and some of the key singers who, like Molly, sang in the original Voicestra. All, with the exception of Art Ensemble of Chicago member Moye, are based in the San Francisco Bay Area.