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
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
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
Copyright©WWUH: November/December Program Guide, 1998