The versatility and creativity of Dave Holland have made him one of the most sought-after bassists in contemporary jazz. He is equally assured playing "in the tradition" or outside it. As leader of the quintet heard on Points of View, co-leader of the re-vamped Gateway with peers John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette (Homecoming, In The Moment), and the motive power behind Kenny Wheeler's highly acclaimed Angel Song, he has been enjoying a particularly high profile recently, likely to be further boosted by Thimar, a new transcultural collaboration with Anouar Brahem and John Surman.
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Dave Holland was born in Wolverhampton, England on October 1st 1946. He was drawn to music at an early age starting with the Ukelele at age 4, moving to the guitar at 10 and then to the bass guitar at 13. Other than a brief period of piano lessons, in these years he was largely self taught learning the popular music of the day from song books and the radio. At 13 he and a few friends formed a band and began playing at the local clubs and dances. By the age of 15 he had joined another band and as that group was working a lot he decided to leave school and try and earn a living as a musician. It was around this time that in a search for expanding his ideas on the bass guitar that he began listening to jazz and heard on records the great bassists Ray Brown and Leroy Vinnegar. This had a profound affect on him and he quickly got a double bass and began practicing with the records. Although he was still working as a bass guitarist he began going to jazz clubs with his double bass and sitting in with the local jazz players. In the summer of 1963 at the age of 17 he was offered a 3 month job on double bass with a dance band that was playing a summer season at a holiday resort. Following this there was a short tour with a big band that was accompanying the pop singer Johnny Ray and then came an offer of a job in London playing music in a restaurant.
As soon as he moved to London he began looking for a bass teacher and started weekly lessons with James E. Merritt who was the principal bassist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and teaching at the Guidhall School. In the spring of 1964 on his teachers recommendation he applied for admission to a three year program at the Guidhall school and after taking the entrance exam was admitted with a full scholarship in September of 1964.
This began a period of intense musical experiences. By his second year at the school he was the principle bassist in the school orchestra and was also beginning to work with a wide variety of people in the London jazz community. His early jazz work was with bands that were playing in the New Orleans style of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong but he soon was working with many other groups that ranged in style from swing era to modern.
By 1966 he was beginning to play with some of the London based musicians that were being influenced by the contemporary jazz trends of the time. These musicians included John Surman, John McLaughlin, Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler, John Taylor, Chris MacGregor and others. Bassists that influenced him during this period included Charles Mingus, Scott LaFaro, Jimmy Garrison, Ron Carter and Gary Peacock. His studies at school introduced him to the works of many contemporary classical composers which also had an important influence on him, particularly the music of Bela Bartok. Other activities included free-lance work with chamber orchestras and a variety of work in studios recording music for television, film, radio and records.
By 1967 he was appearing frequently at the Ronnie Scott Club with such jazz greats as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Joe Henderson. It was during an engagement there in July of 1968 that Miles Davis visited the club and heard Dave playing and asked him to join his band. Dave moved to N.Y.C. a few weeks later and for the next two years toured and recorded with Miles. When not on the road he worked with many others in the New York community.
It was late in 1970 that he left the band along with fellow band member Chick Corea and together with Anthony Braxton and Barry Altschul founded the group Circle. It was at this time that he started performing on violoncello as well as bass. After working together for a year the group disbanded and early in 1972 Dave joined Stan Getz’s group. He also had the opportunity to work briefly with Thelonius Monk and began what was to be a long playing relationship with Sam Rivers. Later that year he recorded his first album as a leader, the widely acclaimed Conference of the Birds. This was also the year that he began teaching both privately and as an occasional guest teacher at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York. He left the Getz quartet in the beginning of 1973 and concentrated on working with Anthony Braxton in duo and group situations and with Sam Rivers in duo and another setting. In 1975 he took part in the formation of the Gateway trio with John Abercrombie and fellow band member from the Miles Davis band Jack DeJohnette. This has continued as an occasional project up to the present time. After working with Betty Carter for a few months in 1976 he spent the remainder of the decade working and recording with Sam Rivers. Dave recorded an album of solo bass music in 1977 entitled Emerald Tears and also began performing solo concerts.
The 1980’s began with Dave still working with Sam Rivers but by 1981 he had left the band so that he could turn his attention to putting together his own group. This was interrupted for a year by an unexpected illness but by the end of 1982, after recording the solo violoncello album Life Circle, he was ready to assemble his first full time working band, a quintet. The first version of the group featured Kenny Wheeler, Julian Priester, Steve Coleman and Steve Ellington. Later members included Marvin Smitty Smith and Robin Eubanks. The group recorded three groundbreaking albums and toured extensively until 1987.
Following the disbanding of the quintet he continued working in a trio format and in 1988 recorded the poll winning album Triplicate with Jack DeJohnette and Steve Coleman. He also performed with Hank Jones and recorded two albums with him, one of them with Billy Higgins.
His teaching activities included being appointed in 1983 as artistic director of the summer jazz workshop at The Banff School in Banff, Alberta, Canada, a position he held until 1990, and from 1987 to 1990 a full time faculty position at the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1988 Dave formed a new band, a quartet with Steve Coleman, Kevin Eubanks and Marvin Smitty Smith and in 1989 the group recorded Extensions an album that was voted album of the year in Downbeat magazine and received world wide acclaim.
Other activities included a 1990 world tour with Jack DeJohnette’s Parallel Realities group featuring Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny, and a Grammy nominated recording with Metheny and Roy Haynes. Since 1992 he has also appeared as a member of Herbie Hancock's trio and in that same year Dave performed on Joe Henderson's Grammy Award winning recording So near, So far.
1993 started with a tour of Europe performing solo concerts after which he recorded his second solo album, and later that year took part in an extensive tour with a special project featuring Betty Carter, Geri Allen and Jack DeJohnette during which the group recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England. This recording was released in 1994 under the title Feed the Fire.
Early in 1994 Dave formed a new quartet with Steve Nelson, Eric Person and Gene Jackson. The summer was spent touring with the Gateway Trio and the trio recorded an album for ECM December. Dave’s Quartet performed in Europe and America and early 1995 the band recorded its first album to be released on ECM Records in April 1996. The remainder of the year he toured both with his group and as a member of the Herbie Hancock Trio with Gene Jackson.
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