Pass It On is Dave Holland?s first document of his latest band, in which, for the first time, the 61-year-old master bassist — whose recordings with the Dave Holland Quintet since 1997 have deployed vibraphonist Steve Nelson?s airy chords for harmonic context — incorporates into his compositions the tonal density of the keyboard, here performed by Mulgrew Miller, the state-of-the-art pianist of his generation. It denotes the latest transition in Holland?s distinguished career, one marked by inspired musicianship across a 360-degree spectrum of styles and improvisational strategies: engaging in early-career form busting with Miles Davis, Sam Rivers, and Anthony Braxton; developing an original solo language for bass and cello; rigorously dissecting world (Indian and North African) and funk beats with the Gateway Trio and elaborating upon that process in his 1985-91 ensemble with M-BASE rhythmetricians Steve Coleman, Marvin ?Smitty? Smith, and Robin Eubanks; referencing and extending the role of the bass in mainstream jazz on gigs with Stan Getz, Betty Carter, Thelonious Monk, Hank Jones, and Herbie Hancock. All these flavors permeate the nine-piece program, replete with the episodic themes, memorable melodies, elegant harmonic progressions, loads of polyphony, call-and-response, background riffs, and global array of interlocking rhythmic cycles that Holland characteristically deploys to create, as he once put it, “closed-form music with an open-form sound.” Blending old hands (trombonist Eubanks from the quintet; trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, the latter two from Holland?s as-yet-to-be-recorded octet) with new faces (Miller and interactive drummer Eric Harland), Holland propels the flow with relentless grooves and singing sound, spurring an attitude of openness and interplay, offering a meaningful signpost of what contemporary jazz can be.
About the Writer
Ted Panken writes extensively about jazz and creative music for various publications, including DownBeat, Jazziz, and Jazz Times, and programmed jazz on WKCR-FM in New York City from 1985 through 2008. He won the 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his article "Smalls Universe," published by DownBeat. His blog, Today Is The Question, contains over 160 of his articles and verbatim interviews.