While on tour in Europe in early 1971, the Roland Hanna Trio was invited to record at the MPS Studios in Villingen, Germany. The trio consisted of Roland Hanna on piano, Dave Holland on bass and Daniel Humair on drums. The result was Child of Gemini, a rare album that has just been reissued by MPS Records as a digital download.
Hanna's playing style was a fascinating combination of gospel, jazz and classical influences, and his training gave him a powerful command of the instrument. A graduate of New York's Juilliard School of Music, Hanna had worked with a wide range of jazz headliners prior to 1971. The list included Benny Goodman, Kenny Burrell, Charles Mingus, Elvin Jones, Sarah Vaughan, the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Orchestra, and Jim Hall.
For Child of Gemini, Hanna had intended the work to be played as a suite by cello and trio ensemble, with the piano and cello as the prominent instruments. Eventually he realized he had all the texture he needed in Holland and Humair. Holland had recently left Miles Davis's band and Humair was about to begin a tour with pianist Oscar Peterson.
Hanna's music on this album covers a range of emotions. It's stormy, lyrical, jazzy, hymnal, classical and loaded with innovative solo passages by all three musicians. Holland's bass solos are woody and superb while Humair's drumming has persistent force with an elated sense of freedom. Hanna, of course, is exceptional here and highly inventive. The Child of Gemini was a masterpiece when it was released and it remains so today.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find the Roland Hanna Trio's Child of Gemini exclusively at iTunes.
JazzWax clip: Here's Blue Lilly with Roland Hanna on electric piano...