COMPOSERS: Christian Mcbride Band
PERFORMER: Antonio Hart (as, fl), Mark Gross (as), Chris Potter (ts), Gary Smulyan (bs), Robin Eubanks, André Hayward, Josh Roseman (tb), Earl Gardner, Alex Sipiagin, Duane Eubanks (t, flg), Steve Nelson (vib), Dave Holland (db), Billy Kilson (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 014 002-2
Bassist Dave Holland’s exemplary musical career seems to reflect certain qualities of Miles Davis, who recruited Holland for his own group in 1968. After a series of groundbreaking small groups in the Eighties and Nineties, Holland found his ideal quintet, which he later augmented to an octet to enrich the soundscape.
The octet’s success, both on tour and on disc, encouraged him to enlarge it further into the 13-piece big band that features on this new release, a triumph of economy of means and poetic expression. Holland’s authority makes him an inspirational leader and the big band seems to have the flexibility of a small group, with the soloists all intensely focused. The deployment of vibraphone instead of piano enriches the ensemble’s sonority.
Holland has arranged some of his earlier small-group compositions, including ‘Shadow Dance’ and ‘First Snow’, fleshing them out and exploring them anew. His title track is a 17-minute tour de force with shifting soundscapes ranging from tempestuous to tranquil and graced with a passionate tenor solo by Chris Potter and a dynamic conversation between Robin Eubanks’s trombone and Billy Kilson’s drums.
At almost 15 minutes, ‘Shadow Dance’ is about three times longer than the original and begins with a masterly three-minute pizzicato bass solo – the tone ravishing, the invention superb – before changing into a very high bass ostinato over which Antonio Hart’s flute plays. The textures are light with prominent vibraphone, but the tempi change dramatically. The piece ends with several soloists improvising together and a dramatic final chord.
This whole album is packed with delights and surprises – yet Holland says he’s only scratched the surface.