Overtime (Sunnyside Records)
Dave Holland Big Band
Released February 22, 2005
Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album 2006
Legendary bassist Dave Holland premiered his big band at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2000. At the time, his quintet was thriving, and therefore he wasn’t thinking much beyond the initial engagement of his 13-piece ensemble. After all, as any student of modern jazz knows, the economics of keeping a big band alive and on the road is, in most cases, cost prohibitive. But almost immediately, his jazz orchestra generated a high level of interest, and, as Holland notes, a ‘ripple effect’ took place. â€œI had reservations it would work” he says. But the big band became an unexpected and wonderful success. The group defied the odds and profitably toured, touching down throughout Europe twice as well as playing dates in the U.S., including shows at both the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.
Less than five years after it was born, the Dave Holland Big Band is inarguably the top big band in jazz. In addition to scoring top honors in jazz polls, its first CD, What Goes Around, scored a Grammy in 2003 for best large ensemble jazz album. The follow-up disc, Overtime, the debut release on Holland’s own label, Dare2 Records (distributed by Sunnyside Records in the U.S. and Universal Music France outside of the States), continues the big band story with a new chapter of passionate, exhilarating excursions.
“The new album represents the growth of the big band,” says Holland, who composed and arranged seven of the eight pieces, including the four-part ‘The Monterey Suite.’ “We set out to create an ensemble sound. This record documents the unifying sense we have developed. I can’t say enough about the musicians. Without them, these pieces are just notes on paper.”
Tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, a member of the big band and the quintet, said in an interview recently that Holland’s leadership was special. “Dave approaches the band as something you wind up and let go. Of course, he’s serious about the music. He wants us all to play at our highest level. He’s very curious to see how far we can take an idea and run with it.”
On Overtime, you hear the collaborative results: a rich, full sound that rolls and sometimes roils; lyricism with warm-toned harmonies; mystery within the romance; a spirited flow, a thrilling fury, a buoyant dance. And the conversations aren’t blowing sessions, but lively exchanges among inspired musicians listening to each other.
“As a player, I like the situation where you point me in a direction, and let me give a piece momentum,” says Holland. “That’s my aim, giving everyone in the big band the opportunity to delve into their own creative possibilities. There’s a fine line for balance’ utilizing the band for my composing and arranging, but also keeping the flexibility and freedom in the music.”
The leader takes cues from both Duke Ellington and his former employer, Miles Davis. “Ellington wrote wonderful music, but what the musicians in his orchestra brought to the tunes took them to another level,” he says. “And I liked Miles’ nondictatorial approach. He steered his bands subtly and used the strengths of his band mates. I like the story of when Trane joined Miles’ band. He kept asking Miles what to do and he ignored him. This went on for two weeks and Trane was confused. But then he realized that Miles wanted him to figure out on his own what to do.”
Overtime was recorded in November 2002, after six weeks of touring. “When I formed the band, my goal was to maintain a steady personnel roster,” says Holland. “I didn’t want to have a group that I put together with whoever was available at a certain time. I wanted to create a sound with a group of soloists and give everyone a chance to stand up and be heard.”
The band on the CD is comprised of saxophonists Antonio Hart (alto, soprano and flute), Mark Gross (alto), Gary Smulyan (baritone) and Potter (tenor); trombonists Robin Eubanks, Jonathan Arons and Josh Roseman; flugelhorn/trumpet players Taylor Haskins, Alex “Sasha” Sipiagin and Duane Eubanks; Steve Nelson on vibraphone and marimba; and Billy Kilson on drums.
The first four tracks on Overtime form “The Monterey Suite,” commissioned by the Monterey Jazz Festival and performed there in 2001, a week and a half after 9/11. “Writing for Monterey was really my first attempt to fully compose and arrange for big band because I had formed the group only a year earlier,” Holland says. “I returned from a tour in Austria the day before 9/11 and still had the last part to write. But I couldn’t compose because I was so stunned by the horrific event. But finally, a day before rehearsals, I spent 14 hours locked in my music room and completed “Happy Jammy.” As it turned out, the suite and our performance of it at Monterey was such a positive assertion of the human spirit overcoming adversity.”
“The Monterey Suite” opens with the swinging tune “Bring It On,” which captures the anticipation and feel at the beginning of a typical jazz fest. “The opening is a fanfare,” says Holland. “It’s an invitation to be present, to come on, to see friends you haven’t seen in a long time and in the most fundamental sense, to gather a group of people together.” That leads into “Free for All,” which opens with a gentle bass soliloquy, then blooms into a letting-go spirit where the entire band expresses its freedom. Holland wrote the alluring, yet mysterious “A Time Remembered” to capture the bittersweet edge of reminiscing about the past, and then ends the suite with the uptempo surge of “Happy Jammy” that captures the jam-session spirit of festivals where musicians play off each other.
Overtime continues with the impassioned Ario,” a rearranged tune that originally appeared on the quintet’s Point of View album, and Robin Eubanks” composition “Mental Images,” which features a series of terrific horn exchanges above a stimulating rhythm. The CD closes with the rowdy “Last-Minute Man,” a number tinged by funky grooves reminiscent of Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg. “I listen to them and feel they’re doing a lot of creative work,” says Holland. “I’m not totally influenced by them, but there is something in the groove of this piece that reminds me of them.”
As for starting his own Dare2 imprint, Holland says it’s been in the back of his mind for several years. With all the support and interest in his music in the last several years, he figured it was time to take the leap of faith and go it on his own. “One of the initial motivations was to be independent, to own my own masters, to have more control over the entire process of releasing an album,” he says. “But in the long term, there’s a lot of promise in making music this way, especially with the changing environment in the recording industry. With the Internet and the new ways of accessing music, such as with mp3s, there’s a new climate that offers independent labels like mine more of a chance of survival.”
1. Bring It On (Dave Holland) 11:58
2. Free for All (Dave Holland) 17:37
3. A Time Remembered (Dave Holland) 11:45
4. Happy Jammy (Dave Holland) 9:36
5. Ario (Dave Holland) 11:08
6. Mental Images (Robin Eubanks) 9:22
7. Last Minute Man (Dave Holland) 7:13
Dave Holland: double bass
Alex Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn
Duane Eubanks: trumpet, flugelhorn
Taylor Haskins: trumpet, flugelhorn
Antonio Hart: alto and soprano saxophone, flute
Mark Gross: alto saxophone
Chris Potter: tenor saxophone
Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone
Robin Eubanks: trombone
Josh Roseman: trombone
Jonathan Arons: trombone
Steve Nelson: vibes, marimba
Billy Kilson: drums
Recorded November, 2002, at Avatar Studios, New York, NY
Producer: Dave Holland
Co-producer: Louise Holland
Engineer: James Farber
Assistant Engineer: Brian Montgomery
Mastered by Greg Calbi
Photography by Ulli Gruber
Artwork: Niklaus Troxler
Design: Chris Drukker
What does one do when his initial album as a big-band leader sweeps up almost every award in sight and rockets straight to the top of the best-seller list? If he’s bassist Dave Holland, he goes back to the drawing board and works Overtime to make sure his second one is not only as good as but in some ways even better than the first. Having listened closely, this reviewer’s candid appraisal is “mission accomplished.”
More than fifty minutes of Overtime is devoted to Holland’s four-part Monterey Suite, the second movement of which he introduces with a two and one-half minute a cappella solo. The suite is marked by enchanting melodies and lively rhythms, much like Gerald Wilson’s Suite for Monterey, but unlike Wilson’s, it isn’t based on a single overarching theme. For comparison’s sake, Holland’s music sounds much like what one might hear from the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra or a more straight-ahead and accessible version of the Mingus Big Band. Maria Schneider also springs to mind, but from what I’ve heard so far I would say that her arrangements don’t swing as freely or as often as Holland’s.
Holland also wrote and arranged the diaphanous “Ario”? and shuffling “Last Minute Man,”? while trombonist Robin Eubanks did likewise for the album’s other selection, “Mental Images,”? a passionate pirouette with intrepid solos by Holland, Robin Eubanks, Steve Nelson (marimba) and brother Duane Eubanks (trumpet). Trombonist Jonathan Arons and alto Mark Gross are front and center on “Ario,” Duane Eubanks and trombonist Josh Roseman on “Minute Man.”
To me, the Monterey Suite’s pinnacle is the sensuous ballad “A Time Remembered”? (decorous solos courtesy of trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and baritone Gary Smulyan), but others are sure to have their own favorite moments, as each section yields its own recompense. Antonio Hart’s soprano sax charts a blistering course on the fast-moving “Happy Jammy,”? Robin Eubanks and tenor Chris Potter burn rubber on the bustling “Bring It On,”? and Holland, Potter, Nelson and drummer Billy Kilson are the eager combatants in a spirited “Free for All.”?
I was pleasantly surprised by Holland’s first big-band album, which was far more straightforward than anticipated, and am even more gladdened by this one, which embodies more of the same and proves clearly, if any doubt remained, that Holland is a formidable big-band composer/arranger. Sound quality is excellent, playing time a generous 78:44. Easily recommended.
Jack Bowers (All About Jazz)