TO Jazz Review: Dave Holland Quintet, July 3, Nathan Phillips Square


It’s pretty amazing how many jazz musicians who played with one Miles Davis-led group or another are still kicking around. Chick Corea’s still touring, Jimmy Cobb’s touring with his “So What” band right now (unfortunately not making a stop in Toronto, but hitting seemingly all the other jazz fests this summer), Herbie Hancock is going to be at Massey Hall in August, John McLaughlin is still around, Branford Marsalis and Sonny Rollins (both at this year’s Toronto Jazz Festival) both appeared with Davis a few times, it goes on and on.

Then there’s Dave Holland, who was the bassist in Davis’s band for several years during the late 60’s, when Davis was well into the jazz fusion stage of his career. Holland featured prominently on one of Davis’s most popular albums, Bitches Brew, and also one of my favourites, In a Silent Way.

I actually didn’t know any of this before Mark and I sat down to see Holland play ahead of Branford Marsalis’s set last Friday, but I thought it was kind of cool. Holland, who’s been a sideman in a lot of different bands since then, leads his own quintet now, featuring Chris Potter on sax, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibraphone, and Nate Smith on drums.

You can definitely hear the influence of Davis’s avant-garde/jazz fusion stuff on Holland’s music. It’s a bit abstract at times, with very lengthy solos from Potter and Eubanks that deliberately shy away from much in the way of melody or rhythm. It’s the kind of music where you can appreciate just how good all the players are, and all five musicians are very, very good players, but if you like your jazz a little more melodic, it can seem a bit convoluted and be a bit hard to get into.

That’s pretty much how it felt to me, anyway. Whether it was because we were there mostly to see Branford Marsalis (who Mark will be reviewing shortly) or if it’s just because I’ve always preferred Kind of Blue era Miles Davis to Bitches Brew, Holland’s set just didn’t quite resonate. I knew it was all technically quite well done, and Potter in particular is quite a soloist and improviser (Mark reviewed Potter’s quartet, which also featured Smith on drums, here). But I couldn’t get into most of it the way I did Dave Brubeck a couple night’s earlier, or Marsalis, whose set I very much enjoyed. I honestly caught myself looking at my watch more than once during one of Potter and Eubank’s extended solos; some of them just seemed way too long.

I did, however, get into Nate Smith’s drumming. That guy can really play. An extra point for the set because of him.

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival