26 December 2008

Enthusiasms (23) ~ Dave Holland

This post is long overdue. Over the course of the past decade I've spent hours and hours listening to eight consistently impressive recordings bassist Dave Holland has released with ensembles of various sizes (quintet, big band, and now, sextet), each with overlapping concatenations of personnel and instrumentation. You can find a listing on his web site here.

Holland typically puts together a mid-sized working ensemble, occasionally building a big band around it. Nearly all of the compositions on these disks are originals, most by Holland, but nearly always nicely leavened by contributions from other core members of his ensembles. Of the eight releases (and these are just part of Holland's output as a 'leader') the first four appeared on ECM and the last four are on Holland's own Dare2 label. As I've mentioned here before, I find it fascinating to watch artists struggle to create organizations to produce and distribute their own work. This is especially so in cases where someone like Holland has what I presume was a solid working relationship with a respected label like ECM. It would be interesting to talk to Holland about this, among other things.

I have to say that, while the studio recordings are terrific (all, by the way, recorded by James Farber at Avatar Studios), my favorite is probably "Extended Play: Live at Birdland" for two reasons: (i) it is consistently angular, using space and punctuation to wonderful effect in ensemble interactions, and (ii) it demonstrates how remarkable it is when, as the title intimates, a group of musicians works together regularly over extended periods of time.

In any case, the latest offering from Holland is a sextet recording. The title track "Pass it On" is dedicated to the late Ed Blackwell. But I suspect it also signals the appearance of an almost wholly transformed lineup (the lone holdover is trombonist Robin Eubanks) and the aspiration to pass on the efforts and accomplishment of Holland's earlier quintet. We can only hope!

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