THE DOZENS: TWELVE ESSENTIAL DAVE HOLLAND TRACKS by Bill Harrison



                        Dave Holland, photo by Jos L. Knaepen

The following twelve tracks were all composed by bassist and bandleader Dave Holland. There are three outstanding solo bass tracks, which I’ve included here because so few bassists have dared to record solo projects, and Dave does it so well.

These dozen recordings cover a period of over 35 years, from 1971 to the present, and are examples drawn from a truly extraordinary and formidable body of work. The only precedent for Dave Holland’s career is the work of Charles Mingus. To my ears, Holland’s impact on modern jazz is equally significant.


Dave Holland: Song For The Newborn

Track

Song For The Newborn

Group

Circle

CD

Circle: Paris Concert (ECM 1018/1019)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass).

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: Paris, February 21, 1971

Albumcovercircle-parisconcert-anthonybraxton-chickcorea-daveholland

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

This early solo track from Dave Holland is among his most virtuosic and most organic. Holland freely improvises, alternating between lyrical sections and purely textural areas in a way that seems to evolve naturally. He employs certain "new music" techniques, such as slap pizzicato (à la Bartók) and playing arco and pizz simultaneously. Some of these devices later became clichés, but Holland is, to my knowledge, the first jazz player to use these means, and he does so in a very effective and fresh way. Few solo bass recordings are as mesmerizing as this.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: Under Redwoods

Track

Under Redwoods

Artist

Dave Holland (bass)

CD

Emerald Tears (ECM 1109)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass).

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: Oslo, August 1977

Albumcoverdaveholland-emeraldtears

Rating: 84/100 (learn more)

"Under Redwoods" features some of the most lyrical, harmonically folksy playing of any track I've heard by Dave Holland. It's a ballad, and Holland takes his time stating the theme, adding double and triple stops to fill out the harmony. He plays it cool throughout, never letting his prodigious technique get in the way of telling this bucolic story.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: Homecoming

Track

Homecoming

Artist

Dave Holland (bass)

CD

Ones All (Intuition 2148)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass).

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, May 1993

Albumcoverdaveholland-onesall

Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

Unlike most other solo bassists, Holland prefers the instrument's middle and low range. He doesn't hang out in the stratosphere, which gives his work a refreshing, meaty texture. The sound of his bass is extremely well reproduced on this CD. Holland slowly reveals this tune, phrase by phrase, weaving bits of the melody with angular phrases. It is another fine example of how his playing can spellbind an audience.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: You I Love

Track

You I Love

Group

Dave Holland Quintet

CD

Jumpin' In (ECM 1268)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass),

Steve Coleman (alto sax), Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn), Julian Priester (trombone), Steve Ellington (drums)

.

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: Ludwigsburg, October 1983

Albumcoverdaveholland-jumpinin

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

On "You I Love," Holland uses the time-tested compositional technique of writing a new melody to an existing set of chord changes. In this case, the progression is taken from Cole Porter's "I Love You," and Holland's take on it sounds as far from the original as "Groovin' High" does from "Whispering." This early incarnation of the DHQ does more group improvising here than on some later CDs, and it is particularly welcome on this track. The soloists eat this one up with obvious abandon – they seem to enjoy deconstructing an old standard and making it their own.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: Processional

Track

Processional

Group

Dave Holland Quartet

CD

Extensions (ECM 1410)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass), Kevin Eubanks (guitar),

Steve Coleman (alto sax), Marvin “Smitty” Smith (drums)

.

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, September 1989

Albumcoverdaveholland-extensions

Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

"Processional" is another excellent example of Holland stretching the boundaries of a traditional jazz form. The tune is essentially a 12-bar blues with some altered chord structures. Oh, yeah, and it's in 5/4. Dave tears up the meter on his solo; he's clearly in command. Eubanks's playing is also very expressive here. It is interesting to hear how the band sounds with guitar as the chording instrument as opposed to the vibraphone. Each instrument adds a unique texture and set of overtones to the music.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: Lazy Snake

Track

Lazy Snake

Group

Dave Holland Quartet

CD

Dream of the Elders (ECM 1572)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass), Steve Nelson (vibes, marimba),

Eric Person (alto & soprano saxes), Gene Jackson (drums)

.

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, March 1995

Albumcoverdaveholland-dreamoftheelders

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

Like so many of Dave Holland's tunes, it is the overall vibe of "Lazy Snake" that sticks with me. Dave plays one of his finest recorded arco solos as an introduction, then sneaks into the reptilian ostinato that underlies the whole track. The mysterious Eric Person plays the unison melody with impeccable intonation along with Steve Nelson's vibes. Nelson plays the outstanding solo on this cut. His playing is deceptively complex, probably because he plays in such a relaxed, unhurried way. This incarnation of the quartet is well worth checking out.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


World Trio: The Whirling Dervish

Track

The Whirling Dervish

Group

World Trio

CD

World Trio (Intuition 2152)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass), Kevin Eubanks (guitar), Mino Cinelu (percussion).

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, c. 1995

Albumcoverworldtrio-minocinelu-kevineubanks-daveholland

Rating: 86/100 (learn more)

This rollicking track is appropriately titled. The trio dances through this up-tempo tune that really does evoke images of ecstatically whirling Sufis. All three musicians play great solos; Holland demonstrates his graceful way of handling rhythms over the barline and Eubanks shows off his super-bad John McLaughlin- style chops. Cinelu manages to work up quite a head of steam despite the dynamic limitations of hand percussion. It is unfortunate that this band didn't survive to record more, but it was great while it lasted.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: Jugglers Parade

Track

Jugglers Parade

Group

Dave Holland Quintet

CD

Prime Directive (ECM 1698)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass),

Chris Potter (saxes), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes, marimba), Billy Kilson (drums)

.

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, December 10-12, 1998

Albumcoverdaveholland-primedirective

Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

It's hard to believe this CD was released a decade ago, and this track is one of the few tip-offs that the band was in the early stages of its development. "Jugglers Parade" features a charmingly jagged, swinging head arrangement and some manhandling groove playing from Holland and Kilson. Potter's solo has a few bebop references, which demonstrates not only his youthful savvy but also how far his playing has come since then. This track even has some old-fashioned trading fours with the drummer.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: What Goes Around

Track

What Goes Around

Group

Dave Holland Quintet

CD

Not For Nothin' (ECM 1758)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass), Billy Kilson (drums),

Chris Potter (saxes), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes, marimba)

.

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, September 21-23, 2000

Albumcoverdaveholland-notfornothin

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

"What Goes Around" is a storm by the name of Billy Kilson. His explosive playing shines on this cut, particularly in the midst of Chris Potter's solo. He pokes, prods and pushes the band to the outer limits of both dynamics and superimposed meters. At the center of the storm is Holland, unperturbed by any of the controlled pandemonium around him. The tune itself is a sly 11/4, with several interweaving sections and a 6/4 release that happens at the end of the solo section. This is classic DHQ.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: Triple Dance

Track

Triple Dance

Group

Dave Holland Big Band

CD

What Goes Around (ECM 1777)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass), Gary Smulyan (baritone sax),

Chris Potter (saxes), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes, marimba), Billy Kilson (drums) with 13-piece band

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Composed by Dave Holland

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Recorded: New York, January 2001

Albumcoverdaveholland-whatgoesaround

Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

"Triple Dance" demonstrates what a great idea Holland had when he decided to build a jazz orchestra around the core of his working quintet. The addition of seven more reed and brass voices gives Holland the ability to shape the compositions with an increased level of drama. At first I thought "Triple Dance" was in an odd meter until I realized that it is actually three-bar phrases of 4/4. Holland's grooves often make the oddest combinations of meters feel natural; the groove of this tune manages to do just the opposite! Great solos contribute to this wonderful opening track on a stellar CD.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Scolohofo: The Winding Way

Track

The Winding Way

Group

Scolohofo

CD

Scolohofo – Oh! (Blue Note 7243 5 42081 2 6)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass), John Scofield (guitar), Joe Lovano (tenor & soprano saxes), Al Foster (drums).

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, July 30-31, 2002

Albumcoverscolohofo-oh

Rating: 80/100 (learn more)

It is fascinating to hear these great players work out on this quirky tune. Although Holland's own bands are accustomed to his way of writing and creating vamp sections to blow over, Scofield and Lovano appear to be at something of a loss as to how to handle this concept. The take is solid but the improvising seems rather stiff to me. Yet this should only be taken as a small criticism. When you have players of this stature good things will (and do) happen. They just seem a little out of their element. Al Foster sounds fine, but I miss Billy Kilson's fire on this track.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


Dave Holland: Lucky Seven

Track

Lucky Seven

Group

Dave Holland Quintet

CD

Critical Mass (Dare2 Records SSC 3058)

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Musicians:

Dave Holland (bass),

Chris Potter (saxes), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes, marimba), Nate Smith (drums)

.

Composed by Dave Holland

.

Recorded: New York, December 2005

Albumcoverdaveholland-criticalmass

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

"Lucky Seven" is acoustic jazz/funk in 7/4. It's a great example of the DHQ's ability to make the odd meter sound down home and natural. This track features killer solos from the low end – Eubanks, Holland and Smith. Dave demonstrates his uncanny ability to play over the barline and Nate Smith sounds strong enough to (almost) make one forget Billy Kilson for a few minutes.

Reviewer: Bill Harrison


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