2016 review. Fifty years since first playing Ronnie Scott’s and on this occasion playing two houses to different audiences on a very busy night on Frith Street, a lot of people understandably cramming in to hear one of the greatest jazz bassists on the planet, this is a new trio, well kind of, as Holland and guitar star Kevin Eubanks at its core go back to the late-1980s and most recently Prism.
The new element is their pairing with Monty Alexander drummer Obed Calvaire, bearded and heavily perspiring in a short-sleeve T shirt as the set progressed, big on groove big on subtlety, fingertip-precise, spurring the other two on as they all burst into a huge splash of colour and life at a climactic point two thirds of the way through the performance.
The set – none of the tunes were announced, the soundman when asked later said they probably don’t even have a set list – began so softly like footsteps in the dark it was impossible not to think of In a Silent Way, a classic album that like Bitches Brew Holland appeared on in Miles Davis’ band.
Time after time the Wolverhampton man who has lived in America for many years and who turns 70 later this year, set up massive riffs in organic steps the ostinato sometimes doubled by Eubanks who lovingly washed a pedal-poised veneer of bluesy silk over all the raw materials, the nails of his fingers buffed and shining as his semi hollow body guitar sang out long and aching into the night.
Holland earlier had talked about his love of Bartók and mentioned the encouragement that John Surman had given to him starting out as a young musician wanting to play jazz, a music that his music college (Guildhall) didn’t allow at the time. The set was full of absorbing numbers each defined by jam-fired groove, a lateral approach that allowed for movement, progression in an ideas sense and a bluesy fervour to take hold, Eubanks moving into John McLaughlin territory a little as the momentum shifted towards 1970s jazz-rock. The flow was a joy.