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Dave Holland: Past-Present-Future Luster

By Published: September 18, 2006
AAJ: Billy Kilson (drummer) has been on the other quintet CDs. This is the first for Nate Smith.

DH: Yeah. They were all things that were recorded previous to the Nate joining the band about two years ago.

AAJ: I assume these tunes (on Critical Mass) were battle tested over the last couple years on the road.

DH: Some of it was more recent. A couple of the tunes, at least, were done in the last four months or so before the recording. But all of the songs we have a chance to play. That’s, as you know, something I like to do and something I’ve done with every record. We never usually go in the studio without at least having a chance to play the music for at least some months, but more often for a year or so. We’ve got new music now that we’re starting to play, which will presumably find its way to the next album.

AAJ: Having a working band—and your band has changed very little over the years other than the drummer—has got to be a plus when you’re working on your music. And I know you allow [band mates] to bring in music as well.

DH: Yeah. It’s really a group effort. I’ve always seen it as a group situation. I take responsibility for certain things, but on stage we’re all up there making music together. I’m fortunate enough to have musicians who are not only fine individual players and great ensemble players, but they also are composers. So it just adds another dimension to the contribution that everybody can make to the development of the music and the perspective that we can get from each person’s take on what the band can do.

The interesting thing for me is that it always works out somehow. The music, when it’s all put together on the album, all seems to fit together as a whole. It doesn’t sound like a disparity of different styles of writing and things, even though there are a lot of different approaches. There is a unified aspect to it and I think that comes, certainly, from the fact we work together. We’re all in tune with the potential of what the band is doing at certain times, and so on.

AAJ: That’s one of the great benefits of the band. You guys all have open minds as well. It seems like nobody says, “I don’t want to do this.”

DH: Right. I’ve always thought creativity is a state of mind. It’s not so much about what you do, but how you do it. We all enjoy a lot of different approaches to the music and different ways of thinking about it. That’s something I’ve certainly enjoyed in my career, having had a chance to work with different people and look at the music from different perspectives.

At this point in my life, I’m really interested in bringing together all the different experiences and, of course, having new ones too. And just keep growing; keep the music moving along, in a step-by-step manner. That’s the way I see it. It’s really about going from gig to gig and developing it from day to day. That’s one of the benefits of stable personnel. You have some continuity with that.

AAJ: Holding this band together so long, these days, is a pretty long time.

DH: I think in any time. I think it’s the longest I’ve worked—perhaps Sam Rivers was about the same amount of time. I worked with Sam for about nine years. But it’s the right thing. I’ll take some credit for it, but it’s also to the credit of the musicians who made the commitment to do it and enjoy doing it and feel that what we’re doing together is something that is a special moment for all of us in our lives. We found a group of people who we can really explore a lot of our creative ideas with—in a generous way and a sharing way and a supporting way—where everybody is supportive of each other and what they’re trying to do. There’s not a competitive vibe, which you sometimes find and which usually ends up breaking a band up.

AAJ: Your band has also been chronicled with a steady string of recordings. That used to happen, but it seems like it doesn’t anymore.

DH: I have to say it’s always been a goal and a dream of mine to have that happen. I grew up at a time when it was about bands, like the Ellington band, which in some cases the people would play together for 40 or 50 years. And any other band that I admired, like Miles’ groups and Coltrane and Art Blakey. A lot of the great bands were groups that at least stayed together for a period of time so that they could develop the music and explore the potential there.

You followed those things. You waited for the next album. You wanted to see what the next episode was going to be. It was like reading a book and you wanted to get to the next chapter. OK, where’s it going now?

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