Dave Holland documentary


My guess is this concert photograph is from 1970.

Most of time I’m amazed by how old many of my favorite musicians have become. It’s not that I haven’t integrated the mere passage of time, it’s that their vitality remains undiminished, whether, for example I’m thinking of Sonny Rollins (80), Cecil Taylor (81), Randy Weston (84), Abdullah Ibrahim (76), Roy Haynes (85) and others. Heck, Herbie Hancock will turn 70 on April 12.

However, it’s different with, for example, Anthony Braxton (65) and Dave Holland, who is all of 64. When I grant the immensity of their body of work, it still amazes me Braxton and Holland began recording in 1968. (I turned 14 that year.) Both continue to add masterful documents of their artistry; Braxton to the tune of three-plus recordings every year. I have to remind myself we’re all in the baby boomer cohort.

Dave Holland released one of my favorite records last year, Pathways. He also released a stirring record of jazz-flavored flamenco with guitarist Pepe Habichuela, Hands.


Also, in what counted as one of the most thrilling archival issues of last year, Columbia Records put out Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. It includes material material not included in the previous Bitches Brew extravaganza, and, a concert video from Copenhagen that is a priceless capture of an evening of revolutionary jazz.

(I first got seriously bitten by the serious jazz bug when the owner of the record store I worked in dropped the spike on A Tribute to Jack Johnson, and, In a Silent Way. This probably was in 1971.)

Dave Holland, 22 years old when he brought his virtuosity to the Miles Davis band, is all over these essential testaments. Over his 42 year career as a major jazz player, as sideman, he has no peer as a contributor to various iconic sessions in the jazz canon. This catalog includes famous sessions, such as those made with the Circle Quartet, and Sam Rivers, as well as lesser known masterpieces. For example there are the two brilliant recordings made for Muse by drummer Barry Altschul, Another Time/Another Place and You Can’t Name Your Own Tune. There are tens of recordings where Holland exemplifies peerless.

His run with ECM Records established his reputation as a composer and bandleader right from the beginning with his solo debut Emerald Tears (1977.) He has not made a misstep. More due to the fragmented political-economy of the jazz business, he remains under-appreciated as a composer, although he is every bit in the league of, for example, the late Andrew Hill, or Wynton Marsalis. His artistry seems unbounded. He has proven as much in solos, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, little big bands, and big band.

His virtues as an improviser are many and deeply realized. Two that stand out for me are his horn-like lines and his canny ability to listen and respond to his fellow players. He is an outstanding rhythmic colleague in the conventional ‘rhythm section’ sense, yet he’s a terrific instant composer, to use Paul Bley’s pithy formulation, of striking ‘songful’ solos.

DAVE HOLLAND a short documentary from Ulli Gruber on Vimeo.

This documentary is a must-see. Also, Holland’s web site is gracious and interactive and oriented to his fans in a way other musicians might aspire to.

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