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Everything Holland touches turns to gold

Chris Kepner | Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Dave Holland is back with his first release since his Big Band’s Grammy-winning effort, What Goes Around (2002). With Extended Play, he and his Quintet complement an already significant catalog of studio work with a double disc of live material recorded during a stretch at the legendary Birdland in November 2001.

Holland is part of that elite group of musicians fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play with and learn from the master himself, Miles Davis. He toured with Davis for two years in the late 1960s and appeared on several of Davis’s records, including In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Alongside other Milesian disciples like John Scofield, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland today stands at the forefront of the jazz world, helping to shape its future and train the next generation of musicians.

The Dave Holland Quintet, as it appears on this record, formed in 1997. It consists of Chris Potter on soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibraphone and marimba, drummer Billy Kilson, and Holland playing the double bass. Extended Play is, as the name implies, a live “extension” of the group’s three studio albums: Points of View (2000), Prime Directive (2000) and Not For Nothin’ (2001). All three albums have been highly praised for their musicianship and originality.

This is an interesting ensemble with a very distinct sound. Merely the presence of vibes in the rhythm section, as opposed to the more traditional piano, organ or guitar, is enough to set this Quintet apart from most other groups. Being a fantastic composer in addition to a world-class bassist, Holland uses the contrasting sounds of the saxophone and trombone in front of the magnificently haunting vibraphone to create beautiful harmonies and shocking dissonances, sometimes so intermittently that you can’t help but wonder at his sanity while marveling at his genius. Seven of the nine songs on this record were written by Holland, with Potter and Eubanks each contributing one. As a result, Extended Play is a glorification of one of the finest composers in modern jazz.

The most impressive thing about the Dave Holland Quintet is the chemistry that exists between its members. All are superior musicians and improvisers, but it is their uncanny ability to improvise collectively that propels them into that special class of truly memorable collaborations. “The rare opportunity to have a group with a stable personnel over a relatively long period has given us a chance to explore these compositions beyond their beginnings and use them as a vehicle for our intuition and imagination,” Holland said.

As the two discs contain just nine tracks, two of which are over 20 minutes long and only one of which is under 10 minutes, Extended Play is certainly an exploration.

The distinction of five shamrocks is reserved for albums that are expected to become timeless. Extended Play has the potential to do so, and thus it receives four and a half. Any student of jazz should get this record and pore over it for a long while. Enthusiasts can enjoy it but may want to use discretion because, as stated earlier, the songs are long and exploratory. See www.daveholland.com for more information and online tracks.

Contact Chris Kepner at ckepner@nd.edu