[Dixielandjazz] Dave Holland's Big Band

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Mar 16 13:52:12 PST 2004

Big Band music coming back?  Depends upon whether your glass is half
full, or half empty. Or whether or not you think and do like Dave

Steve Barbone

March 16, 2004 - NY TIMES


A Big Band, Rooted in the Past, Roars Straight Into the Future


      The best thing about Dave Holland's big band, which has gotten to
impressive cruising speed in only a couple of years, tends to be the
core of it: the musicians who make up his more regularly performing
group, the Dave Holland Quintet.

That's no surprise. The quintet is one of the best jazz bands, with its
own rhythmic and structural language and its own sparkling group sound.
Under Mr. Holland's guiding vision, each member is as important as the
next. But the 13-piece big band, with its tight arrangements, adds great
layers of harmony and color. The arrangements lean on what's already
there in the last 50 years of jazz orchestras, the line that forms the
current mainstream of the language, stretching from Ellington to late
Basie to Gil Evans to Thad Jones. The underlying engine is about as
contemporary as jazz gets.

The big band is starting to sound more integrated, like uniquely
large-ensemble music, not just a quintet with add-ons. At Zankel Hall on
Wednesday the band played a new set, tunes different from those on the
group's first album, "What Goes Around," released on ECM two years ago.
Half of the concert was a 40-minute suite Mr. Holland wrote for the
Monterey Jazz Festival in 2001.

The reliable feature of nearly all of his tunes is a vamp; as played by
Mr. Holland, they sound strong and natural. They're not just
palate-clearing passages, but basically the meal itself; intricately
written and accented often in odd-numbered meter, they sustain and spur
on the group's fine soloists. The saxophonist Chris Potter, the
trombonist Robin Eubanks and the vibraphonist Steve Nelson — regular
members of the quintet — all made impressive showings, but the
saxophonist Mark Gross was dynamic and energetic on two separate solos
in "A Rio." A new addition to the group, Nate Smith, shifted the sound a
little: whereas the previous drummer, Billy Kilson, leaned toward a
clenched, excitingly aggressive version of funk, Mr. Smith shows a
little more range.

He proved his breadth especially in the suite, moving from the swing of
first movement ("Bring It On") to a technically agile drum solo in the
second, over a minimal bass vamp ("Free For All"), to the serious funk
bounce of the fourth ("Happy Jamming,"), stressing up-beats as hard as
down-beats. This last part was the band at its best: streamlined, joyous
orchestral funk with jazz nuance and harmonic vocabulary.

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