The Dave Holland Quintet, Jazz Winnipeg Festival, Sat., June 25, 2005
That Dave Holland is among the most famous bass players in jazz is a well-known fact. Plucked from England at the age of 21 to join Miles Davis touring and recording bands, Holland has had an illustrious career, playing with just about everyone anyone up and coming bass player could hope to play with. Now, at the age of 59, Holland is getting press as having quite simply, the world's best touring jazz band. Hype, sure, but it's impossible to argue that his band is not among the cream of the crop.
Opening for Dave Holland was the sax player James Carter. The Detroit native, 36, was very smartly dressed and completely played the role of the charismatic, hot-shot musician. From from being a one-trick pony, Carter backed up his bravado by putting on an energetic, hyperactive performance, which is not something you normally associate with jazz. Backing him up were among the top players from Winnipeg - pianist Ron Paley, professors Steve Kirby on bass and Alvin Atkinson, Jr. on drums, with associate professor and well-known Winnipegger, Larry Roy on guitar. Carter switched occaisionally to soprano sax and flute, and was always effective.
Carter soaked up the spotlight and performed like the star that he is. He has seven albums out and his first album was heralded as the finest saxophone debut in decades. The bottom line with James Carter is that he is an exciting, first-rate talent who is worth seeing live. I haven't heard any of his recordings, but they do vary in style so one would have to be certain before making a purchase. Everyone in the band performed well, as would be expected of the talent invovled. Carter has won jazz poll awards as the top baritone sax player for three years running.
Steve Nelson, Robin Eubanks, Dave Holland, Chris Potter and Billy Kilson
Dave Holland is at the top of his game. He can tour and record with anyone. His current band is composed of Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibes, Chris Potter on Alto/ Soprano saxophones and Nate Smith on drums. Eubanks is the brother of guitarist Kevin Eubanks, from TV's The Tonight Show, and is also an Assistant Professor. For six years, he was voted the top trombonist in Down Beat's International Critic's Poll. Nelson holds a Masters degree in music. Chris Potter, 34, has 6 CDs as leader and was briefly with Steely Dan.
What was most surprising about this show was trombonist Robin Eubanks. I was surpised to not see a trumpet player to compliment Chris Potter, but I was amazed at what a player Eubanks turned out to be. If you have any doubts about how mesmering and intense a jazz trombonist can be, just check out this guy in concert. Time and time again, he did for the trombone what other musicians do with their equipment - grab and hold your attention. He wasn't overshadowed by anyone.
Chris Potter has also made a name for himself among jazz aficionados and delivered the goods in spades. Once again, Winnipeg audiences were exposed to another of the most celebrated youngish sax players in the world. He could easily tour full time with his own band if he ever gets tired of being a sideplayer with Dave Holland.
Steve Nelson was a treat to watch. It's simply amazing to watch him pick out notes with seemingly no effort. It's not too often that you see a vibes player and while he wasn't the centre of attention as much as the other players, he added all the right colors, at the right moments, to make the show just that much richer.
Steve Nelson and Dave Holland
Dave Holland was obviously very pleased with the performance, due to all the smiles he was giving. He performed like Nelson, making his job look effortless but at the same time, he showed that he was a solid part of the band's foundation. The stand up bass is not just for show or to remain a humble part of the background when Holland in on board. He played and soloes with complete authority and confidence and, like all the other players in his band, won generous applause.
Nate Smith held the fort down and won more applause than anyone at the final curtain call. I thought it was tough for anyone else to really outshine the performances of Holland, Eubanks and Potter. Here's hoping these players return to Winnipeg, either with Dave Holland or with their own bands.