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All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Live From New York

February 2009

By Published: February 7, 2009
The Dave Holland Octet, an authoritative assemblage that augmented the visionary bassist's long-standing quintet of saxophonist/flutist Antonio Hart, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibesman Steve Nelson and drummer Nate Smith with horn players Alex Sipiagin, Chris Potter and Gary Smulyan drawn from his award-winning big band, held forth at Birdland for five nights of intensely idiosyncratic music. Combining the harmonic and dynamic power of the larger ensemble with the improvisational and rhythmic agility of the small group, the band's performances throughout the week gave a glimpse of jazz at its very best, full of intelligence and surprises. The second set, opening night (Jan. 7th), began with Holland's "Pathways," a melody built on Nelson's vaguely Eastern vibes wrapped around the composer's potent bass vamp. Solos by Sipiagin and Holland were buttressed by bottom-heavy horn harmonies out of which Smulyan's baritone emerged for a climactic statement. Potter's "Sea of Marmara" featured his soprano and the rhythm section, Smith's bass drum dancing contrapuntally with Holland's bass. The latter's "Happy Jamming" showcased the potent horn section on a joyous romp, with raucous riffing and backgrounds driving the soloists to dizzying heights. Kenny Wheeler's homage to Holland, "So-Fo-Da," spotlighted his lyricism in an Ellingtonian milieu, setting up the powerful big band-styled closer, "What Goes Around."

Steve Davis
Steve Davis
Steve Davis

Steve Davis


New York City

January 7, 2009

The spirit of the late great Jackie McLean loomed large over Smalls during the Steve Davis Quintet's set (Jan. 7th), which was being recorded live for the basement bastion of bebop's own record label. Davis, the last of the Jazz Messengers, cut his chops on trombone in McLean's sextet and, like his frontline partner alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo, was one of McLean's prize students in the jazz program that now bears his name. Seated at the club's piano, at the helm of the same tight rhythm section—bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Willie Jones III—that once propelled the band of Roy Hargrove (who had recorded with McLean in the same group that included Davis) was the veteran Larry Willis. Willis first gained notoriety as both a pianist and composer with McLean's quintet over 40 years ago and Davis wisely called upon him to contribute his long proven skills as a writer to the band's book. His swinging arrangement of "Surrey With The Fringe On Top" made good use of the contrasting sonorities of Davis' smooth burnished sound and DiRubbo's tart biting tone that were also spotlighted on the two horn-two rhythm introduction to the leader's "Spirit Waltz" that followed. Willis' solo piano rendition of "Nature Boy" hushed the excited room that then exploded with approval as he segued into his classic "To Wisdom The Prize." Davis featured the pianist on a solo Ellington medley and then ended with the band blowing his "Insidious Behavior."

—Russ Musto

Recommended New Listening:

* Lotte Anker/Craig Taborn/Gerald Cleaver—Live at the Loft (ILK)

* Ravi Coltrane—Blending Times (Savoy Jazz)

* The Flatlands Collective—Maatjes (Clean Feed)

* Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition— Apti (Innova)

* Jen Shyu—Jade Tongue (s/r)

* Tar Baby—Eponymous (Imani)

—David Adler NY@Night Columnist,

* Steve Adams Trio—Surface Tension (Clean Feed)

* Cory Combs & The Great Plains Ensemble—Fairfax in the Pacific (Evander Music)

* Garrison Fewell—Variable Density Sound Orchestra (Creative Nation Music)

* Jim Hall/Bill Frisell—Hemispheres (ArtistShare)

* Bill Henderson—Beautiful Memory (Live at the Vic) (Ahuh Prod.)

* Joshua Redman—Compasss (Nonesuch)

—Laurence Donohue-Greene Managing Editor, AllAboutJazz-New York

* Box—Studio 1 (Rune Grammofon)

* Braff Blaser Duo—YaY (Fresh Sound-New Talent)

* Robert Dick/Steve Baczkowski/Ravi Padmanabha—Doh Tala (Epoch Music)

* John Edwards—Volume (psi)

* Harry Miller's Isipingo—Full Steam Ahead (Reel Recordings)

* Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach—Iron Wedding—Piano Duets (Intakt)

—Andrey Henkin Editorial Director, AllAboutJazz-New York

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