Bass desrres

Thirty years ago this very month, DAVE HOLLAND was playing a support slot at Ronnie Scott's when he received an offer that changed

his life. Words: Kenny Mathieson

It is one of the most recounted tales in contemporary jazz, but somehow still seems almost miraculous. Dave Holland is among the greatest jazz bass players ever, but he was still a comparative newcomer when he was booked to play with pianist Pat Smythe opposite the Bill Evans Trio at Ronnie Scott’s in July. 1968. One night, Holland was about to take the stage when the great drummer Philly Joe Jones (then resident in London) approached and told him that Miles Davis was in the house, and wanted him to join his band.

One month later. a bemused Holland was in New York, taking over from Ron Carter for a couple of cuts on Filles (1e Kilimanjaro. It was the start of a two year association which placed Holland firmly on the international jazz map, an only ended when he became disenchanted with the increasing domination of electric bass in Miles’s music.

‘I guess what comes to mind first when I think about being with Miles is his focus and concentration on the music,’ remembers Holland ‘but he was also able to run the band without dictating. He gave direction when needed. but also allowed the natural talents of his musicians the space to develop. 1 see that as an ideal quality in a band leader, and I’ve tried to apply the principle myself.’

In the 70s, Holland worked with musicians like Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton in the excellent Circle, briefly with Stan Getz and Betty Carter, and at length with saxophonist Sam Rivers, who underlined ‘the importance of having fun when you played, and of including as much as possible of your musical experiences in what you were trying to develop.’

He made his debut as a leader in the 1972 with the classic Conference Of The Birds, and by the early 803 - following a year of recovery from a serious illness which left him with a clearer vision of where he wanted to go he was ready to make a longer term

42 THEUST 25 Jun-9 Jul 1998

'Miles allowed the natural talents of his musicians the space to develop. I see that as an ideal quality in a band leader, and I've tried to apply the principle myself.’ Dave Holland

Celebrating its twelfth year, Glasgow International Jazz Festival boasts a killer line-up. Over the next two pages we've previewed the hottest jazz junkies. Ticket information and full listings are on page 52.


Dave Holland: ace of bass

commitment to his own music. He has developed a reputation for nurturing budding major talents, but sees it as simply his good fortune that he is able to catch them on the upswing.

Holland is full of praise for his current recruits. saxophonist Steve Wilson. trombonist Robin Eubanks. vibes player Steve Nelson. and drummer Billy Kitson. The group takes a more spacious approach than some of its predecessors, if the recent Points of View (ECM) album is anything to go by.

‘I guess it does sound a bit different. but I think there are a lot of continuities as well. Steve Nelson keeps the harmonic context very open and mobile, and I love the way that Steve Wilson and Robin Eubanks work together. Billy is a really great young drummer, and I also like the fact that the vibes are a percussion instrument as well as a harmonic one.’

At the heart of it all, of course, is Holland’s majestic bass playing, and when he is not working on his own group. that sound is still much in demand, most recently on the newly released album by oud player Anouar Brahem. Thimar (ECM), in a trio completed by John Surman. Holland has achieved a great deal in the three decades since Miles checked him out. and has proved conclusively that the trumpeter knew exactly what he was hearing that fateful night in Ronnie’s.

Old Fruitmarket, Thu 2 Jul (see Listings, page 52.)

Jive talking

The chain of misunderstanding. . . 'Them fine old cats way down in New Orleans . . . phrased so pretty and always on the melody, and none of that out-of-the-world music, that pipe-dream music, that whole modern malice.’

Louis Armstrong rueing the rise of bebop in 7948.

’IS that what the critics are digging? Them critics better stop having coffee. If there ain't nothing to listen to, they might as well admit it. Just to take something like that and say it's great, because there ain‘t nothing to listen to, that’s like going out and getting a prostitute.’

Miles Davis responds to 'the new thing' in l 964.

'They call Miles‘ stuff jazz. That stuff is not jazz, man . . . The thing is, we all get together and we know that this shit is sad, but we're gonna say it's good, then everybody agrees. Nobody is strong enough to stand up and say, wait, this stuff is bullshit.’

Wyn ton Marsalis on Miles Davis ’5 funky phase in 7 982.

'You wouldn't want a doctor treating you with that kind of knowledge, believe me. It's a bunch of shit that's what it is but the nice thing about it is that I don’t have to buy it, or listen to it.’ Thirty years on, and james Moody still gets mad about Ornette Coleman in 7993.

’Nowadays when you say jazz . . . there's a way to play and you better not step outside of that or it's not jazz. They‘ve closed off the definitions in a way that's |aughable.'

Anthony Braxton makes a plea for attitude over idiom in 7994.

'l have very little respect for a purist in any genre, and I think the best music in any genre isn't really like that anyway!’

Don Byron gets the last word for now in 7998.

Miles Davis: jazz or bullshit?