By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Aside from Holland, whose supple propulsion and unpredictable note choices are simply unassailable, the guy you watch most is Nelson. A bespectacled prof in a wilted white shirt, he attacks his vibraphone and marimba as if they were swarming with deadly insects. Shocking enough are the cataclysmic mallet runs he discovers while soloing, but listen to the textures and harmonies he creates while comping behind somebody else: This guy makes pianos seem obsolete.
“Steve surprises me every night,” says Holland. “He’s one of the great improvisers, I think. He’s got such an original way of thinking — very brilliant, very sensitive to what the group needs.”
The audience, too smart for lounge jazz and too nervous for the New Age, applauds steadily. This stuff is intellectual, but best appreciated for its civilized sensuality. Musically trained listeners will be tempted to count out the Dave Holland Quintet’s time signatures. Don’t try, it will only make you cry.
“And then I said, wait a minute, I can make a living playing this music,” says Holland. “I was making a few dollars a night anyway, and I said, Oh, this’ll work. There weren’t any real precedents for professional musicians around me, so it had just never occurred to me. But there’s a long history, particularly in England, of authors and artists and musicians coming from those circumstances. In some ways, that background creates a longing for something else.”
What qualified him? “Really, the main instrument that a musician has is his ear.”
And what pushed him toward jazz? “Somebody called it brink-of-disaster music. I like to live a little dangerously. It’s that idea of people sitting on the edge of their seats, wondering if it’s actually going to be pulled off.”
Jazz can mean financial as well as aesthetic disaster. Holland was a pretty determined avant-gardist at one time, playing with the likes of Anthony Braxton — always bank-balance poison. Eventually, he decided to put everything he ever liked into his music. In rediscovering his own breadth, he connected with a wider audience. Though he didn’t plan it that way.
“The only difficulties I’ve had are because of musical choices I’ve made. Rather than taking the more lucrative gigs, I’ve often taken the harder road, and it’s not always been easy on myself and my family. But they’ve been 100 percent supportive. I’ve always found that the more commitment you have to your beliefs, the stronger you are in terms of what you do.”
In Holland’s case, that’s very, very strong.