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REVIEW Dave Holland Octet "Pathways" (Spinner)

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Tuesday March 23, 2010

By: Tad Hendrickson
Published: March 11, 2010

If you look around the scene, you’ll find that Dave Holland has few peers. He came into the jazz public’s consciousness as a bassist for Miles Davis from the late ’60s to the early ’70s, making his debut as a leader in 1972. He’s currently at the very top of the game, leading a variety of bands and participating in non-leader groups like the Overtone Quartet. He can also be found playing as a sideman from time to time as well. He’s been called the greatest composing jazz bassist since Charles Mingus, with little argument, and he is a soloist surpassed by few in technique.

After a long tenure on the ECM label, Holland started to release his music on his own Dare2 imprint. The latest is ‘Pathways,’ a live octet recording that will be released March 23. He also recently launched a comprehensive new Web site that includes his staggering discography, photos, tour dates, new and vintage videos, news and posts from the man himself. There’s even a publishing section on the site, where people can purchase sheet music of Holland’s compositions as well as transcriptions of his solos. Unreleased material from the Holland vaults also will be made available for cheap or free via download.

“I won’t say it’s a necessity, but it’s become an enabling part of being a musician at this point,” Holland says of the less artistic side of his career. “You have to take more responsibility for various aspects of the business. I am lucky enough to have several people who work with me, but there is a lot of hands-on stuff that still has to be done as part of what I see as necessary to continue to create opportunities for the music and projects that I’m working on.”

The bassist was at complete ease on the record of ‘Pathways.’ The middle ground between his multilayered big-band ideas and the tight playing of his small groups, the octet seemingly allows Holland to have his cake and eat it, too. Here his players get to stretch out, but the harmony support from vibes man Steve Nelson (there’s no piano here) and the punchy horn section offers beautifully embroidered detail to the tunes. Memorable melodies, smart arrangements, exceptional playing: ‘Pathways’ has all the hallmarks of a Dave Holland recording.

It’s also a reflection of who this band is as people and players. According to Holland, “I see the journey we are on as musicians and the different directions you take in your life, and I sometimes think of it as a series of pathways that you choose when you get to certain crossroads, points and things like that. I think that the title has some significance in regards to how we live and the decisions we make.”

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