Bassist, composer, and bandleader, Dave Holland has worked in a vast array of settings over the last 40 years, from classic dates with Miles Davis, Joe Henderson, and Wayne Shorter to his own adventurous recordings, seven of which have been honored with Grammy Awards or nominations in the last decade alone. Holland's latest CD, the third for his Dare2 imprint (distributed by Emarcy/Universal), is a stellar sextet session called "Pass It On" which will be released September 23.
Holland first unveiled the new sextet in early 2006, during a week of showcase presentations at Birdland in New York. The group's potent musical chemistry led to other concert and club dates, and the bassist soon resolved to document their music. Comprised of three horn players - trombonist Robin Eubanks, alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, trumpeter Alex "Sasha" Sipiagin - who have been regular collaborators of Holland's in his quintet or big band, the sextet also includes pianist Mulgrew Miller and drummer Eric Harland, with whom he'd recorded on only a couple of occasions. "I always wanted to do more playing with both of those wonderful players," says Holland, "so I saw this as an opportunity."
"Pass It On" features new arrangements of several Holland originals first recorded in the '80s and '90s. "Some of the compositions that I've written in the past evolve in my mind a little bit over time," he says, adding that "One of the advantages of the sextet is that it's still a smaller unit than big band or octet, but it also gives you a lot of options in terms of orchestrating and utilizing backgrounds. So I thought that was a good way to fill out these old compositions and expand on them a little bit where something new could happen. And, of course, this group of people brings some new creative ideas to the pieces."
Fresh from an extensive series of dates with Herbie Hancock's River of Possibilities Tour, Holland plans to take his sextet out for several key appearances this fall: 9/18-20 Regattabar, Boston; 9/21 Yale University, New Haven; 9/24-28 Yoshi's, San Francisco & Oakland; and 10/8-11 Birdland, New York. (Vibist Steve Nelson, a longtime member of Holland's quintet, will replace Mulgrew Miller for all except the New York shows.)
When not touring, Holland has been occupied with plans for his Dare2 label. Following the release of "Overtime" (which won the 2005 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble), the quintet CD "Critical Mass," and the new sextet project, "Pass It On," Holland is preparing to do an octet record in January, "which is essentially the quintet plus three - Gary Smulyan on baritone sax, Sasha Sipiagin on trumpet, and Antonio Hart on alto sax," he reports. Also in the works is a flamenco recording with several Spanish gypsy players, including the guitarist Pepe Habichuela. Finally, the label has been recording a lot of live gigs which will be made available as downloads on its web site.
But his working groups remain a top priority. "The business doesn't encourage it these days," Holland has observed. "They encourage much more all-star kinds of situations and mix-and-match groups. But as the great Betty Carter understood, there is a need for groups and people working together to develop continuity and evolve together. That's what moves this music forward and is an idea that needs to be preserved and continued."