Sunday, April 4, 2010

21st Century Be-Bop: Dave Holland Octet's Pathways

Dave Holland’s latest album is a triumph of ensemble playing and composition. But this statement could have been written about his last 4 recordings either with his Big Band or Quintet. This album, recorded live at New York’s Birdland club over 4 nights in January 2009, is the first featuring an Octet. The title track written by Holland is built upon a driving rhythm that sets the tone for the entire record. Gary Smulyan gets the first solo on baritone sax and it’s an earthly delight. Holland’s funky bass line on “How’s Never?” sets a pattern and the band plays against the pulse for the duration. But like most of the music written by Holland, the path is never smooth or straight. There’s variety in the musical journey that’s full of surprises which is why Holland and his first-rate groups are so great to hear. It’s music written to make you lean forward in your chair - or turn up the volume on your iPod. This is particularly true on a composition called, “Ebb and Flow”, which is nicely arranged to accommodate the ensemble and soloists, Kevin Eubanks [trombone] and Chris Potter [tenor]. The album closes with “Shadow Dance” which works a steady, slow groove before jumping into hard-bop drive. Pathways is Be Bop for the 21st Century.

--John Corcelli is an actor, musician, writer, broadcaster and theatre director.

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