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Dave Holland

Last Friday October 23 was the Debut of Crosscurrents, Zakir Hussein's new project with the legendary Dave Holland on bass, Chris Potter on soprano and tenor, guitarist Sanjay Divecha, Darjeeling born Luis Banks on keys, his son Gino Banks on trap drums, and of course the genius of Zakir on tabla. Ganesh Rajagopalan guested on karnatic violin and vocals. It was music of the highest order. While Indian music's influence on the West is well documented, this superb fusion was slanted on the West's influence on Indian jazz and movie music. Holland, who played with Miles as a 21 year old on Bitches Brew, and brought his London roommate John McLaughlin to Miles, has played in more diverse settings than perhaps anyone in music save Zakir. From Conference of the Birds, with Tony Braxton, to his own straight ahead groups, to duets with flamenco legend Pepe Habuchuela, Holland is that rare genius who is convincing and riveting in any genre he chooses. Looking to both the drummer and Zakir for accent points (4/4 and 7/4 are child's play for Zakir. I couldn't count the rythyms superimposed on top) the band played with a cofidence that belied this was a first gig with a rehearsal or two. The mutual admiration, and attentiveness, was awe inspiring.
Zakir Hussein returned to SF Jazz for the second year of his residency - four nights. In truth, I should have gone to all four, but saw the Saturday performance, with Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Dave Holland on bass, Sanjay Divecha on guitar, Louiz Banks on piano, Chris Potter on sax, and the other-worldy "The Voice" as Zakir introduced him, Shankar Mahadevan, on vocals. Zakir is one of the most gifted musicians in the world, in any genre, and this was one of the most spectacular performances I have ever heard. (Hearing his father Alla Rakha, with Ravi Shankar when I was 15, the first of many, many times, was another). The level of musicianship on stage is almost impossible to describe. Dave Holland, who first came to prominence with Miles (Silent Way/Bitches Brew then Conference of the Birds with Anthony Braxton and hundreds of important recordings, including a recent one with Pepe Habichuela) kept the whole ensemble anchored. Zakir has an obvious love for Vinnie's drumming - they both played with Marcus Miller at a Herbie gig last year. In truth there are not too many western drummers who could keep up with Zakir's superhuman speed and flow of ideas. Vinnie was having a ball; I don't think I've ever heard him overplay before, but it was fine, and I've never seen him smile so much. Trading fours with Zakir at one point (in 4/4) he actually dropped a beat from being so enthralled with what Zakir did with the prior 16 beats. Most of the tunes were in 4, with funky sambas being a nice groove everyone could wail on. There were a couple of 6/8 tunes, one 5/4 tune, and one tune by Zakir, PI ("dedicated to one of my mentors, John McLaughlin") that I couldn't quite figure out what it was in, possibly 7 1/2 if that exists? As with all of the world's best musicians, everyone listened intently. And in the tunes with Shankar Mahadevan's Carnatic microtonal vocals, with all the musicians accompanying him, a true new world music was born; East, West, and Divine.

Last night the great Dave Holland and Prism returned to SF Jazz.  Holland had a residency there in February, and Prism played on one of the nights.  It was a treat to see them again after only a few months.  They were both looser and tighter as a band, which is to be expected.  Holland and Eric Harland may be the best rythym section in improvised music right now (along with my own dear Kai Eckhardt and Deszon Claiborne!) and achieve a mind-blowing telepathy.  Harland can switch from straight ahaead to funk to latin to bossa in as many bars, and unlike most drummers who try this, a driving groove is always there.  Craig Taborn is sensitive and inventive, and reminds one of Chick Corea in Mile's band.  Kevin Eubanks is a little formulaic for my tastes, and sounded better in February using a Boogie Lone Star amp.  Last night it looked like a Galien Kruger with cheap pedals.  But he has a long history with Holland, and Dave is obviously fond of him.  It could be that Holland finds his icey, vaguely angry playing to be a contrast to his warm tone.  And Holland has one of the best senses of rythym is the world.  Think of the bass line in "It's About That Time" that segues from "Silent Way".  A living master, and treasure.

I could see him every night.

 

       

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