It seems that not a month goes by without the announcement of another label being founded by a musician as the alluring possibilities of the Internet and non-traditional distribution channels allow for direct-from-musician-to-listener commercialization. This year, Maria Schneider won the first Grammy Award for an album sold exclusively on the Internet. And now, after the success of his big band on its first release, What Goes Around,
awash in printer’s ink and megabytes aplenty devoted to its praise, Dave Holland has released his 13-piece big band’s second CD, Overtime,
on his own label, Dare2 Records. Rather than relying solely on the Internet, though, Holland has recruited two traditional distributors, Sunnyside Records and Universal Music France, to help ensure that sufficient numbers of CD’s get into the hands of interested listeners throughout the world.
Like What Goes Around, Overtime
reflects Holland’s interests in balancing structured composition with opportunities for improvisation. In that respect, like Duke Ellington’s appreciation of his players’ unique voices on their instruments, Holland sets things in motion with the spirit of his compositions and stands back to admire the wonders that the musicians can create from the raw material he provides. Originally, his big band first performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2000, his extension of his award-winning quintet being extended to include entire sections for reeds and brass. Acclaim followed, and Holland composed "The Monterey Suite" as the result of a commission from the Monterey Jazz Festival. With three-quarters of the suite completed two weeks before the 2001 festival, 9/11 happened. Then, Holland composed the fourth part, "Happy Jammy," in less than a day, so focused was his concentration by the event. The result isn’t what one would expect, as everyone at that time was playing elegies and patriotic music in incomprehending shock. "Happy Jammy," by contrast, is positively jubilant as Holland refused to let the one-day sea change in national security sidetrack him from the connective spirit of the suite, which depicts jazz festivals’ celebratory nature as they bring people together.
Like much of Holland’s previous work, the pieces on Overtime
feature shifting of moods as even the discrete movements of the suite undergo internal contrasts of colors and tempos, some of which apparently are meant to highlight a soloist’s temperament. For example, "Free For All," the second part of the suite, transitions from Holland’s own introductory solo as he quietly and firmly launches the movement for 2-1/2 minutes before Steve Nelson elaborates on the theme while lightening the atmosphere with a sparkling variation on marimba. Layer by layer, the piece moves into more intensity and greater volume before tenor saxophonist Chris Potter and then drummer Billy Kilson lead into a final heightening of motivic development.
It becomes apparent, despite the larger size of Holland’s big band, that the essential elements of his original quintet remain. Nelson’s glassier sound on vibes substitute for the more traditional inclusion of piano in other big bands. Robin Eubanks continues to play an important role in both groups, so much so that Eubanks’ "Mental Images" is the only non-Holland composition on the CD. As would be expected, the trombone section states the theme, with Holland and Nelson filling in the resulting pause for a sense of mystery before the tune opens up for successive improvisations. And of course, despite the group’s larger number of members, Holland’s low-voiced bass remains one of the big band’s primary components, rooting the band and stimulating it with the ever-present feeling of pulse.
Though Holland maintains a festive mood throughout Overtime,
in absolute defiance of the spirit of the times when it was first performed less than two weeks after 9/11 and thereby providing temporary relief from the nation’s mourning, he does moderate "The Monterey Suite’s" buoyant vibes with the more contemplative section, "A Time Remembered," which by sheer coincidence (considering that it was written months before its performance) reflected the concerns of nation at the time of its first performance with richly textured, pensive solos by Alex Sipiagin’s flugelhorn and Gary Smulyan’s baritone sax. Still, Holland’s big band exits the album with funkiness inspired by hip-hop, providing opportunities for trombonist Josh Roseman and trumpeter Duane Eubanks to adapt the beat that Holland and Kilson laid down for complementary levels of excitement.
Considering the breadth of Holland’s contacts within the jazz scene including members of his bands past and present, not to mention his daughter, Louise, of Vision Arts Management and co-producer of Overtime
it wouldn’t be surprising if Holland’s future releases on Dare2 Records includes additional jazz improvisers daring to lead groups in their own recordings on that label. Overtime
is but the beginning.