While the female vocalist pack is a tightly knit bunch, Holm stands out :30 seconds into the first tune with her ability to pull off diversity in song that most "singers" would not even dream of attempting. "Improvised Raga" opens the eclectic gem as an all most haunting emotional lament with bassist Jeff Chambers following the improvisational lead of Holm which hearkens back to her days as an original member of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra. Permission then takes a hard left back to the more traditional vocal jazz styling as she slays the Chick Corea tune "Sea Journey." A rousing cover of Mongo Santamaria only confirms the Randy Jackson adage, "She can sing the phone book!" Holm's vocals are clean, crisp and bordering on pristine but with just a hint of a smokey finish. Phrasing, tone, and the ability to draw the listener in are but a handful of reasons this release is such an impressive debut outing. It is of little wonder that Molly Holm is an adjunct faculty member with Mills College. Holm continues and would make the late Charles Mingus proud with her riff on Goodbye Pork Pie Hat with Rahsaan Roland Kirk lyrics. Perhaps one of the many standouts that will reach out to you would be the Holm original "The Bear" which is an a capella piece featuring ten Bay Area singers and harmony on steroids.
Permission is far more than your run of the mill female vocal jazz release but is a vocal master class that has meat on its bones. Diversity of tunes, a tight band, and the harmonic exploration that Holm takes the listener on is a thing of beauty. Instead of burning through a set list of standards, Holm dig deep and finds the artistic buried treasure somewhere deep within her soul. Molly Holm is not a singer but a vocal artist and a talent I long to hear more from.
4 maybe 4.5 Stars out of 5. As close to perfect as any major label vocal release I have heard in some time.
Tracks: Improvised Raga; Sea Journey; Permission; The Bear; Go There Now; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Secret Words; Something Else; Afro Blue; Straight No Chaser; You Don't Know What Love Is; Song at Seventeen.
Personnel: Molly Holm: vocalist and composer; Larry Schneider: soprano saxophone; Frank Martin: piano; Jeff Chambers: acoustic bass; Famoudou Don Moye; Deszon Clairborne: drums.
Special Guests: Antonia Minnecola: North Indian vocal percussion; Wayne Wallace: trombone; Bill Bell: piano; Eddie Marshall: drums; Marc van Wageningen: electric bass; Paul van Wageningen: drums; David Frazier: percussion.