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Following in the bandleading tradition of Charles Mingus and serving as a composing role model for younger players such as Christian McBride and Adam Lane, Dave Holland tinkers with his highly regarded quintet and expands it to a sextet on Pass It On. There’s something about bass players that make them the best jazz composers and Holland applies fresh voices to newly realized arrangements of past compositions, as well as some brand new ones making their debut.
Holland had taken this band to the stage of the Blue Note in August of 2007 and the road-testing comes through in the group’s sound: driving post-bop ensemble playing, sensitive, communicative balladeering and clever writing in counterpoint to expressive soloing. Tonally the sextet trades tenor for alto sax (Antonio Hart), adds trumpet to trombone in the brass section (Alex Sipiagin and Robin Eubanks) and prominently integrates Mulgrew Miller on piano (subtracting Steve Nelson’s vibes/marimba). The band often sounds larger than its component parts: Sipiagin anchors the swinging “Fast Track” while Hart takes a sinuous solo on the serpentine “Lazy Snake” and infuses “Equality” with creative energy as the other musicians play their charts.
Holland’s role is relatively understated. He seems to bask in the dynamic brilliance of drummer Eric Harland’s engaging, proactive style, as well as Miller’s ability to interact with bass and drums and serve as the connective tissue linking the rhythm section to the horns. The album’s centerpiece, the longish, multi-textured “Rivers Run” (originally on 1988’s Triplicate) features cascading piano, dramatic bass dynamics, rolling drums and Hart’s suffering on alto...and that’s just the first half! When Sipiagin steps forward to lead the rhythm section as a smoking quartet, it suggests Holland may have the idea for his next band.
Track Listing: The Sum of All Parts; Fast Track; Lazy Snake; Double Vision; Equality; Modern Times; Rivers Run; Processional; Pass It On.
Personnel: Dave Holland: bass; Eric Harland: drums; Antonio Hart: alto saxophone; Robin Eubanks: trombone; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet.