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The University of Hartford

Dave Holland Quintet- Points of View
ECM Records
By Chuck Obuchowski

     Bass players are to jazz what umpires are to baseball: theirs is an indispensable role, but no one pays much attention to them unless they make a mistake. That's when the epithets start to fly.
     Dave Holland rarely slips up, so you might assume he would fall into the "invisible" realm. Fortunately for the jazz world, his extraordinary skills and tenaciousness have earned him worldwide recognition over the past three decades. Of course, it didn't hurt that this Brit's first American gig was a twenty year stint with a certain Miles Dewey Davis, III. Like some of his elders-Ray Brown and Ron Carter, for instance inclusion in a world-renowned ensemble helped to launch Holland's solo career.
     Conference of the Birds, released in 1973, was an auspicious debut; his virtuosity on the double bass was confirmed, but more importantly, Birds revealed a highly original jazz composer and bandleader. Twenty-six years later, Points of View demonstrates Holland remains an artist willing to accept the risks of change, growth and refinement of his craft. His lengthy association with ECM also continues, with Holland taking care of the production chores usually handled by label founder Manfred Eicher.
     The 52-year-old leader has always surrounded himself with excellent improvisers from both sides of the Atlantic; here Holland veterans Robin Eubanks (trombone) and Steve Nelson (vibraphone & marimba) are joined by newcomers Steve Wilson (saxophones) and Billy Kilson (drums). All but Kilson contribute contributions to the album, but the overall sound is unmistakingly Dave Holland.
     "Herbaceous," a dedication to Herbie Hancock, is the most immediately ear-catching tune, a cooker which begins with a good-natured duel between trombone and soprano sax and continues for nearly 10 minutes of inspired postbop solos and interplay, recalling the energy of Mr. Hancock's Miles days. Kilson is particularly impressive, proving he can hold his own against other Holland drummers-of-choice like Jack DeJohnette and Marn "Smitty" Smith.
     The more introspective side of Holland's writing comes through on tracks like "Bedouin Trail." Listening to the loping rhythms and alluring modal melodies of this tune, it's easy to picture camels sauntering through the desert sands. Nelson's vibraphone solo conjures up memories of classic Bobby Hutcherson material, and Eubanks' trombone work throughout is spellbinding. The latter's "Metamorphos" is a delightful piece of sophistifunk, wherein Robin & Co. prove the M-base movement of the 80s still offers exciting musical directions for open-minded improvisers.
     "Ario," written by Holland after a recent trip to Brazil, displays a kind of neo-Bossa feel, with Wilson demonstrating his impressive chops on alto. The saxophonist, who has a new release called Generations out on Chick Corea's Stretch label, has been replaced in Holland's current touring band by fellow young lion Chris Potter. Unfortunately, no Connecticut dates are planned.
     Dave Holland, one of the most ambitious bassists of our time, shows no signs of resting on his laurels. He recently concluded a tour of Japan with guitarist Jim Hall, plus European dates with multi-reedist John Surman; he's currently touring China with a quartet that includes Nelson, Kilson and saxist Antonio Hart. Holland is also featured with Joe Lovano and Elvin Jones on the recent Trio Fascination, and will be on forthcoming recordings with Cassandra Wilson and Charles Lloyd, as well as an all-star date with Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, and Roy Haynes. Not too shabby! In the meantime, treat yourself to 72 minutes of Dave's intriguing Points of View.

Copyright©WWUH: November/December Program Guide, 1998

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