Dave Holland - The big picture

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fêted at home and abroad, Dave Holland, is one of the most celebrated UK jazz musicians working on the upper reaches of the international touring circuit today. Having just turned 60 recently the bassist who famously joined Miles Davis after the trumpeter heard him playing in Ronnie Scott’s club, he went on to make a name for himself in an avant garde settings with cult group Circle and then on to a substantial recording presence on ECM. Duncan Heining looks back with Dave on his career, back to the fondly remembered London days at the Little Theatre Club, through the early days and recording highlights with his long running quintet and up to the present day with his new label highlighting the talents of his own big band. Colleagues John Surman, Jack DeJohnette and John Surman also give their views on just why Dave Holland is such as important presence on the scene today.

Dave Holland celebrated his sixtieth birthday on 1 October playing a gig with his quintet in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Speaking from Rio he says: “I’m very happy with this quintet. It’s great fun and always a joy to play with these guys. After some US dates and a short break, the group head over to Europe for a gig at the London Jazz Festival on 18 November and elsewhere in Europe.

Clearly, 60 isn’t yet time to take the foot off the pedal. There’s a second CD, Critical Mass, on Dave’s new Dare2 label to promote and much music to be played. But why, after 30 years with ECM, did he choose this point to start a new venture. “To be honest, I’d wanted to do it for some time. I’d discussed with ECM years ago to see if they would be interested in licensing my recordings rather than owning them. The first motivation was the ownership of the recorded material. With a normal relationship with a record company, the company basically owns the records even though the artist pays for all the production and other costs. I thought it was time to try and change that model.”

Discussions with Manfred Eicher made it apparent this wasn’t an option for ECM but there were no hard feelings on either side, as Dave explains: “They wanted to own their own masters and I understand that. They’re a business and we continued with a very good relationship and I made a number of records with them from the end of the 90s and into 2000.”

Two years ago, however, the point came for Dave to follow through on his ambition. His first big band album, What Goes Around, had won a Grammy and the live quintet record, Extended Play, had been nominated as well. “We had a recording that in my opinion was a very good recording, a follow-up to a Grammy-winning CD. So, it was a very good place to begin and good leverage to start the company. We got great interest from Universal Jazz France. Without any hesitation, they agreed to enter into the relationship with us and it gave us a wonderful platform for releasing our own music on our own label, with great promotion and distribution behind it.”

Dave’s second big band album, Overtime, was Dare2’s first release and it’s even better than its predecessor. As Dave says: “I’m always looking for development in the recordings and I thought Overtime was the next episode of the big band. The group had been together for a few years, new music had been written and performed and it was a chance to show a fully mature group of musicians that had really got to know each other, that really understood the music fully and worked together as sections and as an ensemble in a very unified way.”

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