Dave Holland Big Band – What Goes Around (2002)

Remember Colombo? I’m not sure what kinds of memories that show brings forth in people, but to me it remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, even though I was a chaotic viewer at best. My love of Colombo isn’t restricted only to the main character. Liking him goes without saying. But there’s a fascinating combination of glamor and depravity in that show, very well captured through Lt. Colombo’s “blue-collar” style, annoyingly civilized when dealing with a majority of white-collar criminals and murderers. That very realistic, instantly recognizable tension is what gives the show it’s appeal to me, and I find myself being transported in that frame of mind when I listen to this record.

Source: baixobrasil.blogspot.com

I couldn’t really believe Dave Holland issued an album with this sound in 2002. It sounds so firmly wedged in the seventies it’s unbelievable. But then again, in the ’70s, Holland was doing work in a sort of avant-garde jazz style, quite uncompromising and, frankly, very difficult to enjoy, at least to my ears. That’s not to say it sounds anachronistic or dated, but rather that it adheres to norms of harmony and composition which are very reminiscent of that era, especially as it has such a strong cinematic component to it. What Goes Around is an album which I can perceive in two distinct ways, which sometimes overlap – on the one hand, it’s a wonderful soundtrack to an unmade movie; on the other hand it’s a very satisfying example of baroque, lush big band jazz, in which all of the soloists have a very balanced way of communicating and leaving each-other space, without sounding overly tight and dry, and without ever slipping into chaotic cacophony.

I think I’ve made the movie connection pretty clear. It’s in the groove, in the way the brass instruments are finely subdued and gracefully controlled, in Dave Holland’s own double-bass cadence and sonic girth. It’s the grand jazzy, finger-snapping, toe-tapping swing, the Pink Panther vibe, the lounge lizard air permeating the record. Listening to this album puts you in the Colombo position of detachment, precisely because it’s such a period piece, without ever becoming a parody. Well lit, wide open bachelor pads seem to unfurl before my eyes, the shuffle of Italian leather shoes on thick carpeting, the jingle of tall, chilled glasses and a slight murmur of voices in the background – the mood is set for the intrigue of the evening. This theatrical aspect of the record is thoroughly enjoyable, no doubt in my mind.

And then it goes further, once you decide to push away this imagery and try to focus on the music itself. It’s patient, intricate, an exquisite dialogue between obviously talented performers. I’ve always sort of had a slight fear of the “big band” term. Most instances of music I’ve heard performed by such an outfit seemed militarized, noisy, crowded and all too ready to bully me into a state of near-panic. When so many instruments perform at once, it’s a considerable challenge to make the outcome harmonious and articulate. This is where Dave Holland’s Big Band truly shines. There’s so much leeway, so much mutual understanding there, I simply can’t detect a single instance on this album where the sound becomes jarring or overwhelming. They’re in complete control and impeccably coordinated synch. They wait for each-other to finish, they know how to conduct civilized dialogue and they do all of this while keeping the music interesting and fresh. You must’ve heard the old joke about a gentleman being an individual who can play the trumpet but chooses not to. Well, this band handles brass with such a smooth touch it’s just exhilarating. Trumpet, trombone, sax working together in such a melodious, elegant way – it was truly a surprise for me, and a very pleasant one at that. Not to mention the rhythmic section – Dave Holland shines on this album with a truly distinctive touch – accepting the double-bass as a foundation-type instrument, inclined towards the more repetitive, structural area of song composition, he still offers an imaginative, spectacular performance. And the drummer is just mind-blowing throughout, but especially during the solo on the title track, after the robust, satisfying buildup.

But I’ll let you enjoy all of this yourselves, no use in pointing out the easily discernible. I’ve got the feeling What Goes Around is not an album one needs to dig deep into in order to understand. It’s a wave of exceptional musicianship and great songwriting, taking advantage of the considerable range an assortment of instruments such as this can offer. Hopefully, we’ll find ourselves in agreement. See you soon!

 

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