Dave Holland Big Band: Overtime

John Kelman By

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Dave Holland Big BandDave Holland Big Band
Dare2 Records

These days it's a challenge to keep any group together for the long haul. Few groups last more than one or two records before dissolving, and while there have been many outstanding records by such short-lived collaborations, one is always left feeling regret for what might have been; the kind of personal voice that might really have emerged had they managed to stay together longer. While bassist Dave Holland's Quintet has, over the course of the last seven years, seen one significant change in the recent replacement of drummer Billy Kilson by Nate Smith, the group has been largely an anomaly in its ability to retain a consistent line-up, all leaders in their own right. Keeping a big band together is even more of a challenge, but the critical and popular acclaim for Dave Holland's Big Band since its formation at the '00 Montreal Jazz Festival, has given Holland the ability to, for the most part, retain a constant roster.

The follow-up to Dave Holland Big Band's debut recording, What Goes Around (ECM, 2002), Overtime—on Holland's new Dare2 Records label—finds a band that has remained largely intact, with only two changes in the horn section of the 13-piece group. Recorded in '02 prior to Kilson's departure, this is also his swan song with Holland, and he proves as inventive and flexible with time as always—a drummer who can swing with the best of them, but has a decidedly funky approach, and the kind of intuitive ability that can only come from years as part of Holland's Quintet which, with saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks and vibraphonist Steve Nelson, still forms the core of the Big Band.

While What Goes Around consisted largely of older Holland tunes, Overtime is predominantly new compositions, most notably the four-part "Monterey Suite" (although it's second movement, "Free For All," has been part of the Quintet's repertoire for a few of years now and appeared on the Quintet's live album, Extended Play (ECM, 2003)). Overtime is proof positive that maintaining a regular touring schedule truly allows a group of any size to develop its voice. Holland's democratic disposition remains intact, with charts that combine richly-considered and vivacious arrangement with a looser framework in which the soloists can truly let loose. From Alex Sipiagin's tender flugelhorn solo on "A Time Remembered," which may be a ballad but still has a strong sense of forward motion, to the more joyful fanfare of "Bring It On," where Potter continues to demonstrate why he is, perhaps, the tenor player of his generation, this band may be about heady ensemble work, but it is also a vibrant improvisational vehicle, where the charts and solos literally jump out of the speakers.

Holland's unerring ability to get inside the groove of any piece also remains untarnished, whether on the staggering polyrhythms of Robin Eubanks' "Mental Images," the only non-Holland composition of the disc, or the darker, more brooding "Ario." And while Holland may be approaching 60, he is still keeping abreast of contemporary concepts, with "Last Minute Man"'s hypnotically funky rhythm clearly coming from the hip hop space of Missy Elliott or Busta Rhymes.

Special note remains essential for the contributions of Nelson, both as an accompanist and soloist. His unusual harmonic sense and careful placement are a large part of what gives both the Quintet and Big Band its unique complexion.

It's all about developing a language, and with Overtime , Holland's Big Band affirms the promise of What Goes Around; that instincts so unassailable in asserting the individuality and instant recognition factor of his Quintet have been successfully transferred to a larger context. Holland's approach has, in particular over the past 10 years, evolved into a clearly identifiable sound and texture. With a consistent line-up that combines the ability to navigate complex arrangement with the kind of improvisational chemistry rarely found in larger ensembles, Holland's Big Band looks, like his Quintet, to be here for the long haul. That Holland can not only attract, but keep players of this caliber together is a continuing testament to his abilities as a player, composer and bandleader.

Dave Holland's fledgling Dare2 Records label is being distributed in North America by Sunnyside Records and elsewhere in the world by Universal Music Jazz France.

Personnel: Antonio Hart: alto and soprano saxophones, flute; Mark Gross: alto saxophone; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; Robin Eubanks: trombone; Jonathan Arons: trombone; Josh Roseman: trombone; Taylor Haskins: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alex "Sasha" Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Duane Eubanks: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Nelson: vibes, marimba; Dave Holland: double-bass; Billy Kilson: drums.

Track Listing: The Monterey Suite: I. Bring It On; II. Free For All; III. A Time Remembered; IV. Happy Jammy; Ario; Mental Images; Last Minute Man

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Dare2 Records | Style: Big Band


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