Dave Holland Big Band | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Dave Holland Big Band 

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Dave Holland was already the most highly regarded bassist of his generation--owing largely to his work in such divergent and complex projects as Miles Davis's first electric bands and Anthony Braxton's bionic avant-garde quintet--when he formed his first group in 1983. With this quintet, Holland presented an alternative to Wynton Marsalis's neoclassicism, then at the height of its influence--instead of re-creating older styles, Holland's group reassessed them, while also taking into account the progressive implications of fusion and free jazz. In the mid-90s Holland formed a new quintet, starring saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, and vibist Steve Nelson, and over the course of three albums it has helped define the jazz of its time. But all the while Holland was dreaming of a big band, a dream realized on last year's What Goes Around (ECM), featuring the 13-piece ensemble that now makes its Chicago debut. Holland built this spectacular orchestra around his quintet, adding such standouts as baritone saxist Gary Smulyan and trumpeter Duane Eubanks (Robin's younger brother), and giving quintet drummer Billy Kilson a larger canvas. As with the small group, Holland gives his soloists plenty of spotlight. But his arrangements do more than that: they provide the solos with busy, sometimes tumultuous introductions that dissolve into thinner textures for the improviser, then underpin the solos with sections of vibrant intaglio. Few knew that Holland had such chops as an arranger, but it's not so surprising: his writing for the quintet has always maximized range and texture, treating its small front line as if it were a miniature orchestra. The duo of vibraphone legend Gary Burton and pianist Makoto Ozone opens. Friday, March 14, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114.

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