Dave Holland, Ones All

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 01.02.14 in Reviews

In 1992, Dave Holland made a solo bass album, only his second in a long career (he also recorded Music from Two Basses with Barre Phillips in the early 1970s). Now available on eMusic, Ones All is chance to hear Holland at length, alternating between set pieces and large sections of complete improvisation. The finest bassist of his generation, Holland combines finger technique, fullness of tone, compositional integrity and emotional complexity, much like a modern-era Charles Mingus. His facility on the instrument may be unequaled, but there’s never a gratuitous note; all the fireworks — and there many — are set off in service to a larger, more ambitious vision.

The finest bassist of his generation, at length

Speaking of Mingus, it’s evident that he’s on Holland’s mind here: He plays one of Charles’s compositions, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” and does his own tribute to the master, “Blues for C.M.” These pieces, without ever becoming slavish imitations, illustrate how profoundly Holland understands what’s important about Mingus’s playing. No bassist controlled pace better, and Holland has picked up the mantle, stretching things out with slow, resonant passages, adding in double and triple stops to establish harmonic construction, and then flying across the finger board with the dexterity of Charlie Parker. Mingus himself might have been able to play this, but no one else aside from Dave Holland could.

Holland often uses “Jumpin’ In” as a barn burner for his various groups, and he loses no momentum when playing it unaccompanied. There’s a point where he combines a vamp with a series of fast single note lines, and one wonders how it’s humanly possible to juggle so much information. “Pass It On,” with its alternating deep fifth double stops and pentatonic phrases, is nearly a folk tune, albeit one with tremendous rhythmic dynamism. It’s exhilarating to hear the way Holland inexorably builds up a head of steam as he develops his solo. And finally there’s his moving “God Bless the Child.” Holland plays the melody, chords, and leading tones simultaneously. As difficult as this is to accomplish, what he somehow manages to convey is purity and simplicity, a touchingly humble finale to an entirely satisfying album.