I've never been overly impressed by popularity contests, and as British-bred bassist Dave Holland swept the field in this year's Down Beat magazine critics' poll, I was thoroughly prepared not to like What Goes Around by Holland's thirteen-piece big band.
Surprise! The album is far better than expected; in fact, I'd go so far as to concede that it is thoroughly absorbing, enlivened every step of the way by notably innovative charts and earnestly inspired blowing from Holland's company of enterprising soloists. Never thought I'd be writing that, but there it is. One simply can't argue with his ears or his common sense. Given Holland's adventurous resume, what I wasn't expecting to hear was music so inflexibly anchored in the mainstream jazz tradition with its indispensable trappingsmelody, rhythm, harmony, counterpointunimpaired, and, best of all, almost none of the narcissistic posturing that I usually associate (rightly or wrongly) with the avant-garde.
As I have only an advance copy of What Goes Around, and must have misplaced any written material that came with the album, there's not much more to say except that every one of the tunes (I assume that all were written by Holland) bears the stamp of a master craftsman, and that there are a number of engaging solos by Holland (who introduces the final track, "Shadow Dance," with a three-minute bass clinic) and his companions, with baritone Gary Smulyan, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Steve Nelson and tenor Chris Potter especially dashing. Well, I must have had more information about the album at one time, otherwise I'd not even know the names of the various tunes or the band's personnel. I wish I could lay my hands on whatever it was but that doesn't seem likely.
Even so, I can say without equivocation that Holland has an excellent ensemble that is more closely akin to the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (or its successor, the Vanguard JO) than, say, the Mingus or Carla Bley bands, and that What Goes Around, which quickly made a believer of this hidebound conservative, should please almost anyone who appreciates a world-class big band.
Track Listing: Triple Dance; Blues for C.M.; The Razor's Edge; What Goes Around;
Upswing; First Snow; Shadow Dance.
Personnel: Antonio Hart: alto saxophone, flute; Mark Gross: alto saxophone; Chris
Potter: tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; Robin
Eubanks: trombone; Andre Hayward: trombone; Josh Roseman:
trombone; Earl Gardner: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet,
flugelhorn; Duane Eubanks: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Nelson:
vibraphone; Dave Holland: bass; Billy Kilson: drums.
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