Photo: Dave Holland.| Joyce Jones. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND.
The next show will air on Sunday, November 27, 2016 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast features an interview bassist, composer, bandleader and 2017 NEA Jazz Master inductee Dave Holland. Holland’s latest project Aziza has scheduled Birdland dates from Tuesday, November 27 through Saturday, December 3, 2017.
Holland was born in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom in 1946, and even before reaching puberty played ukulele and then guitar, having fallen under the spell of skiffle music like most British youth during the 1950s and early ‘60s. As an adolescent, he switched over to the low end of the string family, an uncle fabricating his first “tea-chest bass” out of the thin wooden crates in which tea was shipped. The bass ultimately proved the instrument that steered him away from a working-class destiny. At the ripe age of 14, he began playing R&B, rock and pop tunes for dances and in clubs with local bands, and visiting U.S. artists like Roy Orbison, Chet Atkins, and Johnnie Ray. By his late teens Holland began exploring an expanding palette of jazz styles and it was clear that music was Holland’s calling.
Holland was a mere 19 years old when he began to appear at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London’s Soho district, supporting touring jazz veterans like Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Joe Henderson. That was the venue in which famed trumpeter Miles Davis—who was about to transition from purely acoustic music to more electric instrumentation in 1968, including rock and funk influences—first heard Holland. Davis asked him to take over the bass chair in his band at a time when generations of musicians and music fans were intensely focused on every step the trumpeter was taking.
Joining Davis’s groundbreaking, semi-electric band was the catapult that launched Holland’s career to the international stage. As the world watched and listened, he contributed to albums that pointed the way to the future—Filles De Kilimanjaro, In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew—and performed in jazz clubs and rock festivals, helping to lay the groundwork for the rise of Fusion jazz, an important member of a brotherhood of innovators adept at older and newer jazz vocabularies. While still with Davis, Holland gigged and recorded with other musicians as well, including the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Chick Corea, and Joe Henderson.
Holland left Davis’s employ in 1970 and immediately co-founded Circle—the influential if short-lived free-jazz quartet, with Corea, Anthony Braxton and Barry Altschul. After the breakup of Circle in late ’71, Holland found himself working in bands led by the likes of Stan Getz, Thelonious Monk, Braxton, and initiating an enduring relationship with saxophonist/bandleader Sam Rivers.
In 2003, Holland departed ECM and formed his own label, Dare2 Records, on which he has issued almost all of his recent recordings. In 2005, Dare2 premiered with Overtime, a big band project including music commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival. A year later, Critical Mass featured his Quintet (the first with Nate Smith), and Pass It On in 2008, a sextet performing arrangements in a mini-big band style (with, among others, Robin Eubanks, pianist Mulgrew Miller, drummer Eric Harland.)
The remarkable rate at which Holland leads or collaborates his way into fresh and exciting projects proves he has no plans to diminish the range nor frequency of his creative drive. His band lineups reveal that his ear is still to the ground, listening for and recognizing fresh and deserving talent, and that many are the musicians who are happy to perform or record with him. As Holland prepares to celebrate his 71st year, he is currently playing with a new group, the Aziza quartet, co-founded with Harland, saxophonist Chris Potter, and guitarist Lionel Loueke.
As a leader and collaborator, Holland continues to tour the world and it comes as no surprise that he has and still serves the music in an educational role, having worked during the 1980s as artistic director of the Banff Centre’s jazz summer program (Canada), and as a faculty member for two years at the New England Conservatory of Music in the ‘90s, where he still serves as an artist in residence (as he does at the Royal Academy of Music.) He has also been elected a Fellow of the Guildhall School—his alma mater—and has received honorary doctorates from Birmingham Conservatoire (UK), Berklee College of Music, and the New England Conservatory.
Partial bio adapted from Dave Holland’s website.
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Holland’s latest project Aziza has scheduled Birdland dates from Tuesday, November 27 through Saturday, December 3, 2017.
Watch Holland’s Quintet perform “Concert of the Birds” live in Sao Paulo.
Watch Holland’s Aziza Quintet perform in this 2016 live show.
Watch Holland with Pat Metheny, Jack De Johnette, and Herbie Hancock in this live show.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system.