Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dave Holland Quintet - Jumpin' In

This record was my introduction to Dave Holland. At the time I had been playing electric bass for about 6 years and was just learning how to play upright. I heard Holland's solo on the title track and it just about blew my head off. I had no idea you could play an upright bass like that. Just on a technical level it sounded to me like what he was doing was damn near impossible. But there was much more to it than that: not only was there an incredibly brilliant logic behind what he played, it was loaded with emotion and depth.

But that's just Dave Holland the bass player. Dave Holland the bandleader creates an open and fertile environment here for everyone to communicate and would probably be quick to tell you that this is not his show. Steve Coleman is on alto sax and flute, Kenny Wheeler on trumpets, cornet & fluegelhorn, Julian Priester on trombone, and Steve Ellington on drums, and they sound like old friends here, quickly exchanging stories, and a joke here and there. This is clearest in the collective improvisations, and there are many of these througout the record. The album is dedicated to Charles Mingus and his spirit is clearly present.

After opening with the raucous and free-form "Jumpin' In" (again, take note of the jaw-dropping bass solo as previously mentioned), we settle into "First Snow," a beautiful tone poem that truly sounds like its name. It occurs to me that you could play this tune for someone who isn't an avid jazz listener and they would still immediately get it. To me that's the sign of great music. All of the compositions here are Holland's with the exception of Steve Coleman's "The Dragon and the Samurai." It opens with a slightly twisted, sedate march feel and a unison line from the bass and trombone, until trumpet and saxophone enter with a somewhat mournful melody that fits right into the cracks. "Sunrise" is another Holland composition that describes its title in musical terms, and does so with stunning beauty. The closing "You I Love" is a clever melody written to the changes of Cole Porter's "I Love You" and it's a perfect ending to a perfect album.

The problem I have with some new jazz recorded in the last decade or so (and I won't name any names) is that it is all cerebral and technical with little to no real emotion and nothing to say. The Dave Holland Quintet was brilliant in that it managed to be cerebral and emotional at the same time. Not as easy as you might think. There is a palpable mood and feel to this record that is hard to capture in words, but it is definitely an emotional thing rather than a technical feat. Jumpin' In is a great place to start with these guys and is my personal favorite from this period (1983-84), but I would also highly recommend Seeds of Time and The Razor's Edge. Slightly different personnel on those, but outstanding records as well.

Visit Dave Holland on the web.


  1. great blog!

    want to link blogs.


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