Dave Holland Octet – Pathways

January 01, 1970

(Dare2 Records)





On the cover of Pathways,
the first ever CD released by the Octet version of Dave Holland’s three primary
ensembles, we see eight interlocking circles of different colors. The symbolism
is clear – the paths of these eight musicians go around and around, but they
shine brightest when they all come together to form intricate patterns of
musical hues.


has toured off and on with this subset of his Big Band (or larger version of
his Quintet, if you will) for years, and the ability of these players to work
together has clearly benefited. Most of the material on Pathways has been recorded by different groups over the many years
of Holland’s career – for those not aware of
jazz history, he came over from England
in the late 60s to join Miles Davis’ band, and has since played bass with
virtually every major figure in the genre. But both new and old material are
arranged so carefully, and feature such exciting and inventive solos, that the
album feels completely up to date.


“Ebb and Flow” is particularly noteworthy, as it has a smoky
and flighty solo from trombonist Robin Eubanks, a rhythmically delightful solo
from Holland himself, a furiously building tenor sax solo from Chris Potter
(the break-out star among stars in all of Holland’s ensembles these past x
number of years), and then an ecstatic blast of arranged polyphony from all
eight players at once.


But there are no low points among the seven cuts, recorded
live last year at the famed jazz club Birdland. “How’s Never” is a school of
funk rhythm fueled by an incredible alto sax solo by Antonio Hart and some
highly creative bass and drums interplay from Holland and Nate Smith. Potter’s “Sea of
Mamara” floats a Middle Eastern-tinged soprano sax melody over constantly
building and shifting chords from the horns (I wish I had the musical language
to describe it more clearly than pointing out these horns are styled exactly in
the manner of mid to late 60s TV drama background music.)


Kudos also go out to Gary Smulyan on baritone sax
(particularly his hard blowing on opening cut “Pathways”; Alex Sipiagin on
trumpet and flugelhorn, who plays both smooth and silky and with a hard,
cutting edge; and vibraphonist and marimba player Steve Nelson, who constantly
adds to the harmonic tension with his intriguing counter lines to solos, and
whose own forays in the lead are nifty keen, too. Pathways may not break any brand new jazz ground, but it sure does
combine impeccable musicianship with a willingness to pull inspiration from
multiple sources in such a way that it sounds remarkably fresh and irresistibly


Standout Tracks: “Ebb
and Flow,” “How’s Never,” “Sea
of Mamara” STEVE PICK


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