In his quintet, bassist Dave Holland has created one of the most identifiable sounds in modern jazz. Muted horns bob and weave like prizefighters circling in a ring. Arpeggios on a vibraphone replace the piano chords that anchor most jazz groups. The accessible playing throws off plenty of sparks, but an intellectual reserve keeps the quintet from catching fire. In 2000, Holland expanded his group into a 13-piece ensemble for the Montreal Jazz Festival. That big band went on to record the Grammy winning What Goes Around (EMI, 2003) and the just released Overtime (Dare2, 2005).
Overtime begins with the four part “Monterey Suite,” commissioned for the Monterey Jazz Festival and first performed in 2001 just a few days 9/11. Holland’s writing for the big band shows the same limberness that marks his quintet, but the arrangements have a lushness that recalls Miles Davis’ work with Gil Evans. Listening to “Time Remember,” a nostalgic piece, you can imagine a couple dancing across th room to this music. “Happy Jammy,” the final piece in the “Monterey Suite,” lets Holland deploy some blazing, funky lines on his double bass and the rock oriented tune wouldn’t be out of place on an album by Ken Vandermark’s Spaceways Incorporated trio.
With this larger group, Holland seems to be still exploring how the history of big bands fits into contemporary jazz. “Ario” is a lovely throw back to the swing era. Holland’s regular trombonist, Robin Eubanks, contributes a tune, “Mental Images,” that fits the more cerebral sound of the quintet. And Overtime ends with the funky, almost pop sounding “Last Minutes Man.” It will be interesting to hear how the work with the big band affects Holland’s compositions when he next records with the quintet.