Release date: January 26, 2004
Bassist Dave Holland can always been counted on for (at the very least) two things: a clear delineation of ground rules and an openness to seeing said rules blown wide open by musicians he trusts implicitly. Starting on the outside and moving concentrically inward, we witness various levels of intensity with regard to those dynamics. For this collection, he has chosen to sample five of his quintet sessions, spanning the gamut from 1984’s Jumpin’ In to 2001’s Not For Nothin’. Between the classic big band flow of “You I Love” and the caravan ride of “Shifting Sands,” Holland stretches a robust banner of support. Along the way, one finds ample refreshment in “Homecoming” (Seeds of Time, 1985), an ecstatic experience noteworthy for Kenny Wheeler’s flugelhorn; “The Balance” (Points of View, 1998), which equalizes the light of Billy Kilson’s drumming and the shadow of Holland’s bassing toward an explosive running aground; and the title cut off 1999’s Prime Directive, a groove made palpable in Steve Nelson’s vibraphone over some of Holland’s finest backing on record.
Shedding a member gives us three iterations of the Dave Holland Quartet. Going backward, we begin with 1996’s Dream Of The Elders, of which “Equality” features lyrics of Maya Angelou sung by Cassandra Wilson and a worthy solo from saxophonist Eric Person. Holland sees that beauty and raises “Nemesis” (Extensions, 1990). The dissonant guitar of Kevin Eubanks (who also penned the tune) and flowing alto of Steve Coleman make for a choice groove. And no retrospective of Holland’s artistry would be complete without a nod to 1973’s Conference Of The Birds, from which the eponymous track unlocks the magic of Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton (reeds and flute) and Barry Altschul (percussion). There’s nothing quite like this everlasting slice of mastery. Just let it speak.
The Dave Holland Trio is briefly represented via “Four Winds” (Triplicate, 1988), shifting from one phase to the next alongside Coleman and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The latter carries over into 1995’s Homecoming with John Abercrombie in the wonderfully sardonic “How’s Never.” This distinct trio is the ideal vehicle to explore its every twist and turn, muscle for muscle. There’s also the jewel of “Inception,” a solo cello piece from 1983’s Life Cycle. An experience like no other in the Holland back catalog, let it be a reminder to absorb that album into your collection post haste (if you haven’t already).
Holland deeply understands that each tune is a world to be established, unraveled with an almost scientific level of truth, and given over to the strengths of chance. In doing so, he sends us packing on the next journey before he even finishes the one at hand.