Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Holland-Days

By Michael Henningsen

NOVEMBER 2, 1998:  Like many bass players--jazz and otherwise--Dave Holland began his musical foray as a guitarist before trading six strings for four. But unlike most bass players--and musicians of all stripes, for that matter--the English-born Holland began emitting traces of virtuosity before he reached sweet 16. It was at that tender age that the now 52-year-old jazzman quit school to make his living as a musician. Early exposure to recordings by legendary jazz bassists Ray Brown and Leroy Vinnegar inspired him to switch from electric to acoustic bass, thereby opening musical doors for himself that would eventually lead to his current status as one of the most sought after jazz bassists, being as comfortable playing in the tradition as he is outside it.

Following a three-year stint in the early '60s studying under James E. Merritt, principal bassist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Holland began to make his presence known among London's jazz community, working with John McLaughlin, Evan Parker, John Taylor and other London-based musicians of the time. In 1968, he replaced Ron Carter in Miles Davis' band, with whom he recorded Bitches Brew. By 1970, Holland had begun to branch out into the free-bop and avant-garde as a member of Chick Corea's Quartet. Following Corea's turn toward more accessible music in the mid-'70s, Holland found himself collaborating with Paul Bley, Stan Getz and others before settling into Gateway with John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette.

Throughout his career, Holland has been one of the most notable bassists in jazz, relying on a unique fluidity of playing that allows him to flit effortlessly between frighteningly complex runs and subtle, melodic grooves. His intonation is unmatched and his deeply hewn understanding of music both from the musician's and composer's perspective has made him a vital musical force in contemporary jazz. If bass playing is indeed an art form in its own right, then Holland is certainly one of the form's most gifted painters.

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