Music Review | At Sprague, Sextet hits the spot for jazz

Not too often does the audience at a jazz concert applaud with such persistent determination to force the performers back on stage for an encore, even against their will. But such was the case when the Dave Holland Sextet hit the stage Sunday night in Sprague Hall.

Led by renowned acoustic bassist Dave Holland, the Sextet played music from its new release, “Pass It On,” which comes out today, along with other material. Even while performing behind a semi-circle of musicians, Holland is still the obvious nucleus and powerhouse of the ensemble.

The stage presence of the entire group was one of the most profound elements of the show. The entire band had a genuine good time with music it loves, and that atmosphere on the stage translated to a transfixed audience. Holland handled the bass like a master; he demonstrated unmatched precision and agility, with a tone that is unparalleled in depth. In “Lazy Snake,” he led the introduction of the piece with a solo — the articulate, resonate sound of the bass was supplemented by his own musical ingenuity.

The other musicians, including trombonist Robin Eubanks, saxophonist Antonio Hart, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, drummer Eric Hartland and vibraphonist Steve Nelson, had a number of instrumental solos. In each case, these accomplished musicians showcased the range and capabilities of their respective instruments, from the profound to the obscure.

Holland, a self-taught musician born in 1946 in Wolverhampton, England, took up several string instruments in his youth, starting with the ukulele at age four. At 15, Holland, inspired by a performance of Ray Brown, took up the bass and started pursuing jazz music.

In 1964, he began attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he spent nights performing at jazz clubs. Miles Davis discovered him at one of these clubs in 1968 and offered him a spot in his band. Since then, Holland has formed a number of ensembles from the free-jazz quartet Circle to the Dave Holland Quintet and the Dave Holland Big Band. The Sextet allows Holland the smaller, more intimate ensemble setting similar to that of his quintet but allows for even more musical expression and flexibility with voice, evident throughout Sunday’s performance.

“I want it to develop,” Holland writes of his music on his Web site. “That’s what keeps me interested and involved. I don’t want to perform night after night and play in a routine. I want the music to be alive and real.”

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