Ask Dave #1 (Nov. ’10)

20101028_1288293928_56854-image

As I mentioned in my recent email newsletter, we are starting a monthly feature on my blog called simply, “Ask Dave.” I receive quite a few questions about my career and playing music in general via email, and rather than respond privately, I thought I would make my answers available for everyone to read. We will pick several submissions at the end of every month and post the answers here. You can ask questions about my career and music or ask for advice about your playing—anything, really.  However, please direct your inquiries about bookings for live appearances or teaching engagements to the appropriate contacts.

If you have questions for me for next month’s feature, you can either pose them in the comments sections of this post or send them to me via email at davehollandjazz@gmail.com.

This month’s questions come from a fan who is working on a research paper about my music.  If you have any follow-up questions, you can post them in the comments section.

1.  Your first album as a leader (“Conference of the Birds”)  was released in 1972. But my question is: Has composing always been a part of your musical life? Does the process of composing have much earlier roots in your life?

I wrote my first compositions around 1967, when I was living in London, and I wrote them for bands that I played with. There was a trio led by John Surman and another group that was put together by John McLaughlin. They were both writing and I wanted to make a contribution, not only as a bass player but also as a composer. Since then, almost all my writing has been for particular projects. When I moved to New York in 1968 to play with Miles, he encouraged me to work on my piano playing to expand my musical vocabulary. This helped me develop my writing as well as my playing. Jazz composers who have influenced me include John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Ornette Coleman and Kenny Wheeler. Classical composers include Bartok, Stravinsky, Ravel and Debussy.

2.  Did the “British invasion” of rock in the 1960s have a big effect on you? Are there any bands that specifically influenced you early on, or recently, other than jazz artists?

I joined my first band in 1959, when I was 13. I was playing bass guitar at the time and we played cover versions of the popular songs of the day by early Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Blues artists. American music influenced a lot of the young musicians at that time. Many working class kids like myself found an escape in music and a lot of the groups that developed in the sixties came from the same background.

3.  In your recent group configurations you employ the use of vibraphone as your harmonic anchor. How does the timbre of this particular instrument influence your composing for these groups?

The reason I have vibraphone in the band is because of the way Steve Nelson plays it. Working with Steve for the last 16 years has been inspiring. He’s a great improviser and has although he’s deeply rooted in the jazz tradition he’s developed a very personal approach. His style of playing and the percussive and sonic nature of the instrument has certainly influenced my composing.

4.  Early on in your career you seem to have preferred very dense improvisations over free structures. There seems to be a progression to more consonant harmonies and melodies.  Can you describe this progression?

Not really. I have just tried to follow the musical direction that have seems relevant to where my musical interests lie and to the times that I’m living in. The people I’ve played with have certainly influenced my writing. I try to write music that will provide a creative vehicle for their individual approach. My musical experiences have always taken a number of parallel approaches, and as I’ve developed I’ve tried to weave them into a cohesive statement.

5.  Your association with Miles Davis is well documented. Can you describe how his band-leading processes have influenced you?

He had a way of stripping a composition down to it’s essence and then letting the musicians fill in the spaces. I think he trusted the musicians in his band to find our own creative solutions. We were given a lot of creative freedom, and I like to do that with my groups. I know that I’ve always enjoyed playing music that has a clear intent but that also gives me room to make a personal contribution. It’s all about choosing the right musicians. Then, like Miles, you don’t have to say much!

11 Comments

  1. Scott Price says:

    First I would like to thank you for sharing such beautiful music over the years. My question is: What are the attributes you look for in musicians to play with? Is there any common factor among the musicians you play with?

    Reply
  2. Jon Blanchette says:

    I’d love to hear a reunion with you and Kevin Eubanks (Extensions remains one of my favorite recordings of all time). Do you think this will ever happen?

    Thanks for making great music.
    Jon B.

    Reply
  3. Tom Jackson says:

    I discovered your music in 2001 when I read a review of Not for Nothing in Downbeat and asked my wife to give me the CD for Christmas. Since then, I have downloaded most of your work that is available on Emusic.com. With the announced expansion of Emusic’s offerings, do you expect more of your albums to become available for purchase at that Web site, such as your Dave Holland Quartet catalog?

    Reply
  4. JOSEPH A BANKS says:

    DAVE: I WAS IN THE AUDIENCE AT STUDIO RIVBEA THE DAY AFTER YOUR “CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS”RECORDING OF NOV. 30TH. 1972.BESIDES THAT GIG AT SAM’S PLACE DID YOU FOUR GUYS PLAY TOGETHER AS A UNIT AGAIN.SOMEONE SAID THAT THE GIG AND SESSION WAS A ONE SHOT DEAL FOR THE QUARTET. PLEASE CLARIFY. THANK YOU.SAW YOUR FIRST EVER NYC GIG WITH MILES IN AUG. OF 1968!!

    Reply
  5. António Silva says:

    Hello Dave, I’m a big fan of your music, especially de Dave Holland Quintet. For me, you guys are the most importante jazz group in terms of working with rhythm.
    Do you have a especial way of studying and working with all does diferent rhythms you use in your compositions and improvisation?
    This is probably dificult to answer by writing… anyway, nice playing, hope you never stop playing.

    Reply
  6. Billbass says:

    Hi Dave,
    I love the new live Octet and Quintet recordings
    you released this year. I saw the Quintet at Yoshis
    in June. The band played two outstanding shows.
    Any chance you will release the shows at Yoshis ?
    The studio recording are great but at your live show’s
    the band goes no man has gone before.

    Reply
  7. Tom McCarthy says:

    As a player who occasionally is asked to play in unfamiliar odd meters, I’m often boggled by the deftness of your ensemble, where players are doing inspired soloing in all kinds of time signatures, even implying contrary meters or tempos, without the slightest discernible encumbrance. I’ve always wanted to ask, are you guys mentally counting the music? Or do you just feel it? Or both? (Or neither?!)

    Reply
  8. GARY BERGIN says:

    I’VE READ IN SEVERAL INTERVIEWS OF YOURS THAT YOUR DAILY PRACTICE IS MAJOR SCALES AND RELATIVE MINOR AND IF THERE IS TIME YOU WORK ON CONCEPTS-I’VE ALSO READ AN INTERVIEW WITH A FORMER DRUMMER WHO SAID ONCE THE “CONCEPT” IS AQUIRED PLAYING WAS”EASY”-DO YOU SUBDIVIDE COMPOUND OR MARTIAL METERS AND WORK ON ACCENTING GROUPS OF 2+3 -EXAMPLE: 3/4 METER PLAYED AS 16TH NOTES-COUNT 123-123 1212-12- ACCENTING THE 1 OF EACH GROUP-? AND SO ON
    -WRITE A MELODY OFF OF THAT AND PLAY OSTENADO UNDER IT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS? WELL ANY WAY-YOUR RECORD WITH PEPE HABICUELA IS MY FAVORITE OF YOURS AND I GOT ABOUT A DOZEN

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Dave Holland

Submit your email address to subscribe to Dave's email list and get a free download of the track "Joyride" from his new album Hands with Pepe Habichuela. You may cancel your subscription at any time. Check back often as new downloads will be made available over time! (Downloads will take a couple minutes to arrive in your inbox.)