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Dave Holland Quintet: Boring?


Bol
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For the second time in recent months, I've bought a very well-reviewed Dave Holland Quintet CD only to find it very, very boring. Am I the only one who feels this way about this group?

The first time, I tried "Extended Play". This time it was "Points of View".

I have to admit that my preference is for the fuddy duddy stuff of the 1930s-early 1960s. But some fantastic experience with recent releases by Roy Haynes and Wayne Shorter motivated me to try some new stuff. Holland's group got such good reviews that I thought I should try his recordings. I find his sax players and drummer uninspiring, and the marimba/vibes player a bit annoying. (I do like Holland, and really like Robin Eubanks on trombone.) And the ECM sound I've never really liked; it seems to make jazz verge on the new age music. (I think the following group would be ideal: Eubanks tb, Mark Turner ts, Danilo Perez p, Holland b, Roy Haynes ds; and recorded by Y. Itoh for "88".)

I must be really missing something. The reviews are so positive. But let me know if you agree with me, even partially. I'd hate to think that I'm the only one who feels this way about this music.

Edited by Bol
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Myself, I much preferred Holland's groups when Steve Coleman was on board. That was an exciting band in many ways.

I'd not go so far as to call his current group "boring", but before you write off this group of his entirely, check out what it sounded like in its earlier manifestations for some context.

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And I think experiencing the group in concert gives another valuable perspective.

I don't own any of the most recent DH albums, but I saw them play in NYC in January and was very impressed. I'd say it was a wonderful band, great energy. I've been a fan of Steve Nelson for many years and the drummer I saw, Nate Smith, was new to the band and was kicking.

What the problem could well be is that the energy doesn't transfer over into the recordings. I have quite a few DH albums from the 1980s and 1990s (Seeds Of Time; Triplicate; Extensions; Dream Of The Elders) and I haven't listened to them in ages. Maybe I'll pull them out but they're not calling out for me right now.

Holland is an exceptional player live - another thing I recall seeing was him stealing the show with his only two solos (one acoustic, one electric) during the Metheny/Hancock/DeJohnette snooze-fest. He can do that, he's that kind of bass player.

Mike

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I will speak now for the masses who seem to be in shock and are afraid to reply to this poster.

I categorically disagree with your feelings. I think you are entitled to your opinion and I am not going to say you are wrong but truly I find it puzzling that someone could interpret Chris Potter as a boring player or Nate Smith for that matter! Smith's drumming could be the closest thing to a cure for narcolepsy or chronic fatigue syndrome.

I do agree. Go see this group live and then tell us that you found it boring.

On the score that you particularly like Holland and Eubanks, I would tend to explain that in relation to your comment that you generally like older classic stuff. Holland, for all his associations and trappings of avantgarde is really very much a player in the straighahead tradition. Note how he finally gets the acclaim he deserved long ago when he brings his group a bit more "in" from the Steve Coleman period (which I totally dug as well). Holland and Eubanks both are very modern players but they both rely to a degree on licks and patterns and thus their solos are often a bit easier to follow than Smith's metric modulations and Potter's solo flights (which tend to be other-worldly especially on the blues). Don't get me wrong, Eubanks is an incredibly moving and inventive player, but the stuff that he plays that strikes me most poingantly are the post-boppish lines and patterns that he often quotes.

That's pretty much all I have to say for now but mind you all this was written with the imagery of the band playing live brilliantly preserved in my mind (which I have seen).

-m

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Potter isn't my favorite soloist by a long shot, comping on vibes doesn't do much for me, and still this group can be MAGIC. Do try to catch them live if at all possible. And hear "Not for Nothin'" and "Extensions" (with Steve Coleman) before you give up.

I LOVE the idea of Holland/R. Eubanks/Turner/Perez/Haynes.

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I'm in the "not too impressed" camp where their recordings are concerned. And like Spontooneous Potter is not my favouite soloist and I could do without the vibes. They certainly come over better live, Eubanks especially where you can really appreciate his sound. The first ECMs with Priester and Coleman still do it for me.

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Thanks for all the replies. The consensus seems to be that this group does not live up to its potential in studio recordings. But "Extended Play" is a live album, and I have to say, I'm not excited about that either. Oh well. I guess I will try to catch them live if an opportunity presents itself. Thanks again.

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I know it wasn't the focus of your question, but you might try the Dave Holland Big Band recording that came out in '02, "What Goes Around". He expanded his quintet into a 13 piece group, and the album is really enjoyable. The tunes are all re-recorded versions of songs from the quintet, and done well.

Just a thought, and maybe an entryway into his music?

edit - I believe a new big band recording is due out shortly as well...

Edited by Aggie87
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C-addict wrote: "Holland and Eubanks both are very modern players but they both rely to a degree on licks and patterns..."

Dave Holland is a soloist out of the Ornette Coleman tradition of phrase building allowing the solo to shape itself. Hear any of his solo albums and particularly the tunes "Jumpin' In" or "Homecoming" and the idea that he's a pattern player is hard to back up. He's a melodic bassist as a soloist, and a time conscious composer -- all of those shifting time patterns and metric layers in the new band and big band seem to be the nexus of their excitement and unless you really enjoy the nerd like pleasure of counting through a concert, or if you're a drummer and can really hear that detail and be awed by it, that shit devolves into Philip Glass like tedium. But as a soloist, I don't hear Holland as primarily a pattern player but a very melodic, cell based improviser (meaning, a cell of a melody will appear, develop, be elaborated on and generally guide the direction of the solo's over all form).

You're welcome to disagree. When I hear "pattern player" I think of musicians who have studied books of solos by saxophonists in the post Coltrane era and have taken elements of maneuvering through the harmony out of context, divorcing the "pattern" from original intention. Maybe you think of that differently.

The quintet of the 1980's, and especially the "Jumpin' In" band had something going in the front-line that I haven't heard too many people talk about: a connection to the sound of Booker Little's recordings. Julian Priester and Booker Little made for a tonally interesting combination on the Bethlehem recording "Booker Little and Friend." The color and character of the heads on that record owe a lot to their manipulation of, especially, minor-key tonality. Kenny Wheeler's main inspiration on trumpet is Booker Little, and, of course, he was with Holland in Anthony Braxton's phenomenal quartet along with Barry Altschul. When Priester and Wheeler found themselves together in Holland's quintet of the 1980's or 90's it gave that band a grounding in jazz tradition, a sort of path not taken with the early death of Little, that allowed them to build on something very unique. Now that was exciting.

As for the vibes, as Holland said to me in an interview when the band with Billy Kilson played in Grand Rapids (both a concert and in a dude's house -- hanging out with those guys in this family's music room, books and cds, was big fun) the vibes lend a sense of "transparency" to the group sound. That's cool. Perhaps the "problem" folks might have with a harmony instrument in this band, again, is that the group comes from a tangent of Ornette's music where pianos and guitars have had an on-again, off again role.

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Guest akanalog

i find the new holland albums boring. i have owned and sold them all. i also saw the band live when kilson was still on the drums. i fell asleep at one point. i dunno what i was not feeling though a big part of it is probably my lack of interest in what chris potter has to say. (though he is tight on billy drummond's "dubai"-awesome album)

i think i would like the holland studio albums better if they were recorded in a different way. i do believe there is an ECM sound and that these albums do not necessarily lend themselves to this sound as something like an eberhard weber album might.

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I dug out the two albums I have by the current quintet (Prime Directive and Not for Nothin') recently and still enjoy them a lot. I can understand why some people don't like this music -- there's a certain "emotional even-ness" to the music that could maybe be misinterpreted as a lack of emotion. But I hear a band that's having a lot of fun making lively jazz with some pretty hip compositions and a great groove. I think track #6 on Prime Directive ("Juggler's Parade", I believe) showcases them at their best.

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I had Not for Nuthin, listened to it a few times, almost forgot it was playing because it was so bland, and promptly sold it. I just can't accept the vibes. I've never liked the sound of the vibes. I listened to parts of the Live disc (the one with the green cover), and that had the same effect on me

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I hear what you are saying. I read so many great reviews about this band, checked out a couple of the quintet albums, kept them for a while, and traded them in. They just didn't excite me at all, and I love vibes.

I decided I'd give them another try when the usual round of applause greeted WHAT COMES AROUND. This big band recording had a lot more going for me, and I listened to it often for a while. This thread is actually calling its name tonight. I'll add to the applause for this release, though its not a quintet recording.

Then I saw them live with fellow Richmonder Nate Smith in Boston this Winter. He and Steve Nelson were the highlights for me. Most of the tunes, believe it or not, reminded me of a jazz tribute to Maceo Parker. No fault of Antonio Hart, who blew some incredibly fast bop lines to introduce songs that just ended up vamping. Holland was not in phrase-building mode that night, but his time was unwavering and his hands were so precise. He was great to watch, and quite a contrast to William Parker, whom I had seen just nights before. Robin Eubanks had the crowd going with his Lee Morgan-style trumpet solos, and the ensemble playing was solid, solid, solid. It just sounded like they were covering ground that they had covered the night before.

I'll see them again when they come back next year, and I'll take my wife this time. It was music that anyone could find something to enjoy. I'd recommend you check them out live, but don't force yourself into liking the discs because of everyone else's opinion. :)

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i think i would like the holland studio albums better if they were recorded in a different way. i do believe there is an ECM sound and that these albums do not necessarily lend themselves to this sound as something like an eberhard weber album might.

My thoughts exactly! I heard them live and found them much more exiting than on CD.

A more rough and direct sound would be suited better.

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