Bass meets tabla Dave Hol­land joins Zakir Hus­sain’s Cross­cur­rents

Dave Hol­land joins Zakir Hus­sain’s Cross­cur­rents

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Bill Kohlhaase

Since be­ing plucked from a Lon­don bandstand by Miles Davis in 1968, bassist Dave Hol­land has per­formed just about ev­ery style of jazz — and be­yond — you can list. Hol­land be­came a cen­tral fig­ure in Davis’ elec­tric Bitches’ Brew revo­lu­tion, then went on to play free jazz with pi­anist Chick Corea, sax­o­phon­ists An­thony Brax­ton and Sam Rivers, and drum­mer Barry Altschul. Hol­land’s first record­ing, the in­flu­en­tial and revered Con­fer­ence of the Birds from 1972, was fol­lowed by solo bass and cello record­ings, nu­mer­ous in­no­va­tive quin­tet and octet record­ings un­der his lead­er­ship, a cel­e­brated big band, and work with other in­flu­en­tial jazz mu­si­cians in­clud­ing key­boardist Her­bie Han­cock, gui­tarist Pat Metheny, and sax­o­phon­ist Joe Hen­der­son. More re­cently, he’s been heard on record­ings from his thor­oughly mod­ern quar­tet Prism, with drums, elec­tric key­boards, and guitar. Since the re­lease of Prisim’s self-ti­tled record­ing in 2013, Hol­land’s been heard on The Art of Con­ver­sa­tion ,aduo with pi­anist and long­time as­so­ciate Kenny Barron, and another duo record­ing, Hands, with fla­menco gui­tarist Pepe Habichuela. When he vis­its the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Fri­day, Oct. 9, he’ll be part of Zakir Hus­sain’s Cross­cur­rents combo, a group with roots in both clas­si­cal and con­tem­po­rary In­dian mu­sic.

The English-born Hol­land doesn’t dis­agree that the breadth of his ex­pe­ri­ence makes him ap­pear a bit rest­less. “For me, it’s al­ways about the in­tegrity of the mu­sic and the op­por­tu­nity to learn some­thing in a new mu­si­cal lan­guage,” he told Pasatiempo ina phone call from his home in New York. “All these ex­pe­ri­ences go­ing back to my begin­nings in mu­sic have been an in­flu­ence. What I’ve done, all my work, re­flects that back­ground. It’s a con­tin­u­ing search for new ex­pe­ri­ences, to find mu­si­cians and mu­sic that will ex­pand my own mu­sic.” Hol­land, who picked up the string bass as a teenager and later stud­ied at Lon­don’s Guild­hall School of Mu­sic and Drama, has been known since his days play­ing Lon­don clubs for both rhyth­mic fleet­ness and spot-on in­to­na­tion. “I’m fun­da­men­tally com­ing from a jazz tra­di­tion,” he ex­plained. “That’s a huge um­brella that en­com­passes a lot of dif­fer­ent styles and in­flu­ences. It’s fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing this on­go­ing lan­guage of the kind of mu­sic I’m in­ter­ested in and im­pro­vi­sa­tion in par­tic­u­lar.” Hol­land said he spent three years study­ing fla­menco with Habichuela be­fore they recorded Hands. “It took that long un­der his tute­lage to learn enough un­til I re­ally felt ready to make that mu­sic.”

Hol­land has worked with tabla player Hus­sain be­fore, no­tably at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl in 2012 as part of Her­bie Han­cock’s Con­cert For Peace ensem­ble that in­cluded Wayne Shorter and San­tana, among oth­ers. “I’m in awe of what Zakir can do. He’s an amaz­ing mu­si­cian,” he said of the per­cus­sion­ist who’s recorded with a wide ar­ray of jazz, pop, and clas­si­cal In­dian mu­si­cians. Hus­sain has sim­i­lar ad­mi­ra­tion for Hol­land. “Hav­ing Mr. Hol­land on the tour is not only a bless­ing for us but also a great op­por­tu­nity to learn from him,” Hus­sain wrote in an email ex­change from Mum­bai. “He is a most distin­guished mem­ber of the jazz fra­ter­nity and he would be the per­fect link to con­nect the cross­cur­rents of In­dian and jazz tra­di­tions.” The Cross­cur­rents pro­ject, with si­tarist Amit Chat­ter­jee, key­boardist Louiz Banks, and vo­cal­ist Shankar Ma­hade­van, prom­ises to be some­thing dif­fer­ent than what’s ex­pected from tra­di­tional clas­si­cal In­dian mu­sic. At the time of his con­ver­sa­tion with Pasatiempo, Hol­land couldn’t say what lis­ten­ers would hear from the In­dian mu­si­cians and the English band. “We still haven’t re­hearsed yet. We’ve put aside two days in San Fran­cisco be­fore our con­cert there with [sax­o­phon­ist] Chris Pot­ter and [drum­mer] Eric Harland be­fore the core group goes out on tour.” While Hol­land claims a cer­tain fa­mil­iar­ity with the In­dian tra­di­tion, he said he had no for­mal ed­u­ca­tion in the mu­sic. “My ex­pe­ri­ence with it is kind of as a lis­tener. There was a big com­mu­nity of In­dian mu­si­cians in Lon­don in the ’60s and the great In­dian mas­ters came through to per­form. I loved the mu­sic and had sev­eral record­ings. As far as ac­tu­ally learn­ing or get­ting train­ing in the mu­sic, which is very rig­or­ous, I’ve never been through that. Most of what I’ve learned came from talk­ing to In­dian mu­si­cians, pick­ing up books, dis­cussing the ap­proaches to rhythms and the rags and scales. What we’ll be do­ing isn’t strictly clas­si­cal, but there will be a lot of the fla­vors of that in it. Zakir is de­vel­op­ing some kind of meet­ing point there for all of us to de­velop.”

Hol­land has al­ways shown in­ter­est in a wide ar­ray of styles. But he was la­beled for much of his ca­reer as an avant-gardist based on his early ap­pear­ances with Corea’s free jazz combo Cir­cle, his team­ing with sax­o­phon­ist Sam Rivers, and work in the U.K. with such free-think­ing mu­si­cians as sax­o­phon­ist John Sur­man and the late trum­peter Kenny Wheeler. An ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with young mu­si­cians at a sum­mer jazz camp gave him pause. “We had an open­ing jam ses­sion play­ing stan­dard themes and these young mu­si­cians came up to me af­ter­ward and said, ‘We didn’t know you could play on the [chord] changes.’ This took me

aback be­cause of course I’d come through that whole straight-ahead school of mu­sic in Lon­don. I re­al­ized that there was a per­cep­tion out there that my ap­proach to mu­sic was be­ing de­fined only by the mu­sic I’d done with Miles and Sam [Rivers] and An­thony [Brax­ton]. But that was only part of my ex­pe­ri­ence. Since then, I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to do a lot of dif­fer­ent things that have helped me ex­press all the dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had with the mu­sic. Peo­ple do try to pi­geon­hole you and find a cat­e­gory that they can drop you in. But I don’t feel that’s the case any longer with me.”

Hol­land’s rep­u­ta­tion as strictly an avant-gardist has long since been re­placed by one that sees him as an as­tute band­leader. This be­gan in the 1980s with a string of quin­tet and septet record­ings — Jumpin’ In, Seeds of Time, The Ra­zor’s Edge — on the Euro­pean ECM la­bel. These dates and those that fol­lowed in the 1990s, in­clud­ing 1995’s mag­nif­i­cent Dream of the El­ders, proved the bassist adept at bring­ing to­gether su­perla­tive in­stru­men­tal­ists to play mu­sic that ranged be­tween tightly ar­ranged pas­sages and bursts of im­pro­vi­sa­tional free­dom. Other projects in­cluded his tour with drum­mer Jack DeJohnette — another mu­si­cian some­times un­fairly la­beled as a free jazz prac­ti­tioner — gui­tarist Pat Metheny, and key­boardist Han­cock, as well as ap­pear­ances on Han­cock’s record­ing The New Stan­dard (which cov­ered tunes from Prince, Peter Gabriel, and Kurt Cobain, among oth­ers) and sax­o­phon­ist Michael Brecker’s Tales From the Hud­son. Since 2000, Hol­land has as­sem­bled a big band that has brought in­no­va­tion to that grand jazz tra­di­tion. “I’ve had to put the big band on hold,” Hol­land said, re­fer­ring to the eco­nomic and sched­ul­ing dif­fi­cul­ties such a pro­ject re­quires. “But in my mind, it’s a big part of my life, even if it’s not ac­tive. There have been some dis­cus­sions and I’m just wait­ing for the right mo­ment.” Part of the band’s chal­lenge, he said, is writ­ing the mu­sic. “I’ve al­ways ad­mired what [big band leader and com­poser] Thad Jones and [Duke Elling­ton Or­ches­tra com­poser] Billy Stray­horn did so easily and won­der­fully, the kind of thing I do by trial and er­ror. But I love to do it.”

Maybe the most im­por­tant record­ing Hol­land’s been heard on re­cently is one that calls back to his days with trum­peter Davis. While the bassist is heard on a hand­ful of Davis’ record­ings, in­clud­ing In A Silent Way and Filles de Kil­i­man­jaro, the group with Shorter, Corea, DeJohnette, and Hol­land, of­ten called The Lost Quin­tet, wasn’t cap­tured live, a fact that Davis him­self be­moaned in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy with a strong ex­ple­tive. In 2013, Columbia re­leased a three-CD set Live in Europe 1969: The Boot­leg Se­ries Vol. 2 that doc­u­ments the pe­riod just be­fore Davis went into the stu­dio to record the ground­break­ing Bitches’ Brew. Hol­land, who’s fre­quently asked about his ten­ure with Davis, says that hear­ing the record­ings hasn’t changed how he feels about his ex­pe­ri­ence. “It was an ex­tra­or­di­nary pe­riod and I was hon­ored to be a part of it. And it’s great to have a doc­u­ment of that pe­riod. It’s been ab­so­lutely for­ma­tive to what I’ve done since. It’s not that I’m re­peat­ing those days or recre­at­ing the mu­sic. But it has af­fected the way I cre­ate. It’s about how Miles con­ducted him­self and put the mu­sic to­gether. It was a great ex­am­ple.”

Dave Hol­land

Zakir Hus­sain

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