As good as big band gets
From the Winter 2002 issue.
What Goes Around
By the Dave Holland Big Band
ECM Records: 2002
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
A musical litmus test I use to rate CDs: put the disc in the stereo, push the play button. If the first ten seconds grabs me, it's a winner.
I knew right off on "Triple Dance," the opener on the Dave Holland Big Band's "What Goes Around," that we had something special on hand: Holland's bass throbs the song to life like a heartbeat, anchoring the gleam and shine of Steve Nelson's vibraphone, with Billy Kilson churning a delicate rhythm in on the drums. Litmus test passed; and then Gary Smulyan growls in, bearishly on his baritone sax, eventually pulling the rest of the band into the mix.
Oh yes, a winner.
Dave Holland of late has been working mostly in a quintet mode with vibist Steve Nelson, drummer Billy Kilson, tenor sax man Chris Potter, and trombonist Robin Eubanks winning his Grammys and year-end polls. The big band he's put together here (All-Stars all; he's just completed a European tour with them) is a fleshing out of his concepts that he uses with the smaller group, a filling in of the spaces that adds a wonderful grandeur to the Holland sound.
"What Goes Around" has everything a great big band album should. Solid compositions (all by Holland) that are complex yet accessible; great charts (by Holland) that feature a nice mix of interplay and unison work, and a lot of room for creative soloing that showcases the disparate musical personalities of the individual musicians. And Steve Nelson on vibes. A revelation to me how much that instrument, in his able hands, adds to the brass/reed sound. Gives a shine and polish, a crystalline gleam to the proceedings.
For a guy who gained his initial fame with the late-'60s Miles Davis groups "Filles De Kilimanjaro," "In a Silent Way," "Bitches Brew" this outing is remarkably mainstream, even Ellingtonian at times. The seventeen-minute-plus title tune is a wondrous tour de force, the highlight in the middle of a big band jazz CD that's as good as they get.
"What Goes Around" will show up on a bunch of the year-end top ten polls, deservedly. Holland will win a bunch of awards, deservedly. Big band jazz doesn't get any better than this. A classic. Essential for big band jazz fans.
Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.