Sounds Like: Heady, layered improv-rock excursions distilled into crystalline solo piano pieces
For Fans of: The Grateful Dead, Phish, Keith Jarrett
Why You Should Pay Attention: Solo pianist Holly Bowling transcribed and performed all 37 gloriously improvised minutes of "Tweezer" that Phish played in Lake Tahoe, California in 2013. The popularity of her YouTube performance of the piece led to Distillation of a Dream, an album's worth of Phish interpretations. Its new double-disc sequel, Better Left Unsung, focuses on music by the Grateful Dead (including a ravishing 27-minute "Dark Star"); and Bowling has embarked on a surprising new career as a touring concert pianist who specializes in the jam-band repertoire. Bowling's classical skills give her ability to perform this music with loving accuracy. And her equally passionate fandom has led to the realization that respecting the spirit of the music lies less in bagging and tagging it with accuracy than with "pushing it somewhere new."
She Says: "I had the opportunity to play with [Grateful Dead bassist] Phil Lesh recently at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, California and I was a little nervous. My playing style is very melodic in my left hand from having played solo for so long, and I kind of want to sit on it to make sure I'm not stepping on the bass player's toes in a group setting. But Phil's style is very melodic, too, of course – so what if we had competing melodies? I'm really going to have to back off! And then I realized, no, that's not it at all. The Dead have always been about several melodies going at once, with different streams weaving in and out of each other like unplanned counterpoint. And playing with Phil really brought that home for me."
Hear for Yourself: Bowling's beautiful hybrid version of the Dead's memorable June 18th, 1974 "Eyes of the World" begins with her own metrically fluid arrangement and ends with her transcribed version of the band's jam. Richard Gehr