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Dave Holland Sextet: Pass It On

Given the power and familiarity of Dave Holland’s longstanding sextet and the quintet before that, going back to the early ’80s, one point of surprise with his new band and recording is a fundamental change: the presence of piano. Mulgrew Miller does the keyboard honors, and along with the three-horn frontline, he makes the band sound, on first impression at least, like Holland’s most “traditional” band in decades.

Glancing impressions can be deceiving, of course. In a way, this sextet is a neat, distinctive halfway context between his quintet and big band. Longtime Holland ally Robin Eubanks on trombone, alto saxist Antonio Hart and trumpeter Alex “Sasha” Sipiagin-all three are members of the Holland big band, as well-asserting a solid frontline, with Miller’s formidable McCoy-ish sound thickening the ensemble texture.

With this group, Holland addresses material and musical relationships old and new. He and Eubanks share many sensibilities, including a taste for organic odd-time writing, and the rhythmic sectional link between Holland and drummer-of-choice Eric Harland is something magical and worth expanding. Tune-wise, the set opens with Eubanks’ spicy and brainy “The Sum of All Parts” and closes with Holland’s New Orleans-esque title track, in honor of Ed Blackwell.

One of the more exciting aspects of this project, in fact, is the sense of continuity in hearing Holland dipping into his past songbook and applying new textural/ensemble garb. To hear, for example, Holland’s wakeup-call neo-hard-bop tune “Double Vision”-originally from the great 1984 chordless quintet album Seeds of Time-in this new, horns-and-piano thickened format, is to recognize the sweep and significance of the man’s work and musical thinking over the decades. In Holland’s case, the seeds of time keep reaping.

Originally Published