Saturday Night Jazz at kj's hideaway

Holland, Eubanks and Harland mash it up at the Dakota jazz club

Featured National Scene TCJF

By Dan Emerson

Photos by Andrea Canter.

Along with his many other musical accomplishments, bassist and composer Dave Holland will forever be known as a member of one of Miles Davis’ most groundbreaking groups, from 1968 to 1970. Since those long-ago days, when Miles transitioned from acoustic to electric music, Holland has played in a wide range of formats, from solo to orchestral, and created a sizable body of work. But one lesson he learned from Davis still guides him today: “Keep looking for new directions to go and find musicians you can trust and trust them to take responsibility for music as well; then you don’t have to give then a lot of direction to keep the music moving forward,” the 76-ye ar old Englishman said in a pre-gig interview. That philosophy was in play as Holland, guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Eric Harland opened their first post-Covid tour, Friday, February 17 at the Dakota jazz club in Minneapolis. Both sideman are longtime Holland collaborators; Eubanks, the former Tonight Show music director, first played and recorded with Holland in 1989. Much of the material played at the Dakota was compositions by Holland and Eubanks from Holland’s most recent album, “Another Land,” recorded in 2019 and released in 2021 on Holland’s own Dare2 label. Holland and Eubanks each contributed four new compositions. Holland calls Eubanks “a great composer; he writes in a very different style; we come at composing a little differently, which makes for a nice variety of tunes.” Harland was not part of the sessions that produced “Another Land” – the drummer was Obed Calvaire. But he’s a long-time Holland sideman the bassist is glad to have along on the current tour, which will cover parts of the U.S. and Europe. Holland says Harland is by nature “very generous, which comes through in his music. He is a great listener and supporter, which contributes a tremendous amount conceptually. He can work in a huge range of musical approaches, which is important to me. I like to come at music from different angles. And he is always ready to complement what I do.”

The trio opened the late show at the Dakota with “The Winding Way,” a tune Holland wrote and played with the supergroup ScoLoFoHo (John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Al Foster and Holland) on their 2003 Blue Note album “Oh!”
It started with an extended and expansive intro played by Holland on his upright bass. Driven by Holland’s resonant ostinato, the piece picked up steam as the other members joined in, with Eubanks doing plenty of blue note shredding on his solid body electric guitar.
That was followed by the title track from “Another Land,” It’s an engrossingly ethereal, minor key piece, with Eubanks picking spare, sustained notes and chords over Holland’s singing acoustic bass tones. Harland hammered out some quiet, restrained percussion that was right for the tune.
Eubanks has become a master of “thumb “picking” in lieu of using a guitar pick (a more rockish variation of the thumb-picking style of the great Wes Montgomery) and has developed a quick, clean picking style that has become his musical calling card.
He was amplifying his guitar through two large cabinets, each with four speakers. He also employed a well-equipped pedal board to shape his six-string notes into a range of sounds, sometimes achieving a vocal-like effect.

Showing his versatility, Holland switched to electric six-string bass at one point in the set. “Nemesis” a funky, up-tempo piece co-written with Eubanks for Holland’s 1990 ECM recording “Extensions.” It was a good vehicle for Holland’s dexterous electric thumping and Harland’s turbulent percussive flow.

Another piece of electrified jazz-funk from the 2021 album, Eubanks’ “Grave Walker,” opened with a call and response guitar vamp played over Harland’s forceful groove-making. Throughout the set, Harland demonstrated why he has been a sought-after sideman by many top bandleaders, since starting his professional career back in the early ’90s.
To end the evening, the trio encored the with “Mashup,” a grooving melange of blues, post-bop, funk and rock. Some bristling, back-and forth musical dialogue between the guitarist and bassist cranked up the energy level.

Dan Emerson is a freelance writer and musician.