Dave Holland

Dave Holland
Holland c. March 1987
Holland c. March 1987
Background information
Born (1946-10-01) 1 October 1946 (age 77)
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
  • Musician
  • composer
  • Double bass
  • bass guitar
  • cello
Years active1964–present
Formerly of

David Holland (born 1 October 1946) is an English double bassist, bass guitarist, cellist, composer and bandleader who has been performing and recording for five decades.[1] He has lived in the United States since the early 1970s.[2]

His extensive discography ranges from solo performances to pieces for big band. Holland runs his own independent record label, Dare2, which he launched in 2005.


Born in Wolverhampton, England,[3][4] Holland taught himself how to play stringed instruments, beginning at four on the ukulele, then graduating to guitar and later bass guitar.[1] He quit school at the age of 15 to pursue his profession in a pop band, but soon gravitated to jazz. After seeing an issue of Down Beat where Ray Brown had won the critics' poll for best bass player, Holland went to a record store, and bought a couple of LPs featuring Brown backing pianist Oscar Peterson. He also bought two Leroy Vinnegar albums (Leroy Walks! and Leroy Walks Again!!) because the bassist was posed with his instrument on the cover. Within a week, Holland traded in his bass guitar for a double bass and began practicing with the records. In addition to Brown and Vinnegar, Holland was drawn to the bassists Charles Mingus and Jimmy Garrison.

After moving to London in 1964, Holland played double bass in small venues and studied with James Edward Merrett, principal bassist of the Philharmonia Orchestra and, later, the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Merrett trained him to sight read and then recommended he apply to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.[1] Holland received a full-time scholarship for the three-year programme. At 20, Holland was keeping a busy schedule in school, studios and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London's premier jazz club, where he often played in bands that supported such touring American jazz saxophonists as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Joe Henderson.[1] He also linked up with other British jazz musicians, including guitarist John McLaughlin, saxophonists Evan Parker and John Surman, South Africa-born London-based pianist Chris McGregor, and drummer John Stevens, and performed on the Spontaneous Music Ensemble's 1968 album Karyobin. He also began a working relationship with Canada-born, England-based trumpeter Kenny Wheeler that continued until Wheeler's death in 2014.

With Miles Davis[edit]

In 1968, Miles Davis and Philly Joe Jones heard him at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, playing in a combo that opened for the Bill Evans Trio.[1] Jones told Holland that Davis wanted him to join his band (replacing Ron Carter). Davis left the UK before Holland could contact him directly, and two weeks later Holland was given three days' notice to fly to New York for an engagement at Count Basie's nightclub. He arrived the night before, staying with Jack DeJohnette, a previous acquaintance. The following day Herbie Hancock took him to the club, and his two years with Davis began. This was also Hancock's last gig as Davis's pianist, as he left afterwards for a honeymoon in Brazil and was replaced by Chick Corea when he could not return for an engagement due to illness. Holland's first recordings with Davis were in September 1968, and he appears on half of the album Filles de Kilimanjaro (with Davis, Corea, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams).[1]

Holland was a member of Davis's rhythm section through the summer of 1970; he appears on the albums In a Silent Way and Bitches' Brew.[1] In the first year of his tenure with Davis, Holland played primarily upright bass. By the end of 1969, he played electric bass guitar (often treated with wah-wah pedal and other electronic effects) with greater frequency as Davis moved away from acoustic jazz.

Holland was also a member of Davis's working group during this time, unlike many of the musicians who appeared only on the trumpeter's studio recordings. The so-called "lost quintet" of Davis, Shorter, Corea, Holland and DeJohnette was active in 1969 but never made any studio recordings as a quintet. A 1970 live recording of this group plus percussionist Airto Moreira, Live at the Fillmore East, March 7, 1970: It's About That Time, was issued in 2001. Steve Grossman replaced Shorter in early 1970; Keith Jarrett joined the group as a second keyboardist thereafter, and Gary Bartz replaced Grossman during the summer of 1970. By the end of the summer, rhythm and blues bass guitarist Michael Henderson had replaced Holland.

ECM and the 1970s[edit]

After leaving Davis's group, Holland briefly joined the avant-garde jazz group Circle, with Corea, saxophonist Anthony Braxton and percussionist Barry Altschul.[1] This started a decades-long association with the ECM record label. After recording a few albums, Circle disbanded when Corea departed.[1] 1972 saw the recording of Conference of the Birds, with Braxton, saxophonist/flautist Sam Rivers and Altschul– Holland's first recording as a leader, and the beginning of a long musical relationship with Rivers.[1] The title of the album is taken from that of a 4,500-line epic poem by Persian Sufist writer, Farid al-Din Attar.

Holland worked as a leader and as a sideman with many other jazz artists in the 1970s. On 15 June 1972 he played with Thelonious Monk at the Village Vanguard which was one of Monk's last concerts.[5] Holland recorded several important albums with Anthony Braxton between 1972 and 1976 – including New York, Fall 1974 (1974) and Five Pieces (1975) – that were released on Arista Records.[6] Holland also recorded duo sessions with saxophonist Sam Rivers and fellow bassist Barre Phillips, and the solo bass album Emerald Tears.[1] Also in the 1970s he appeared with performers including Stan Getz and the Gateway Trio with John Abercrombie and DeJohnette.[1] The Gateway trio released two influential modern jazz albums in 1975 and 1977, and reformed in 1994 for a recording session which yielded another two albums. As a sideman, Holland appeared on rock and pop recordings as well, working with singer Bonnie Raitt on her 1972 album Give It Up.

The 1980s[edit]

Holland formed his first working quintet in 1983, and over the next four years released Jumpin' In, Seeds of Time, and The Razor's Edge, featuring alto saxophonist Steve Coleman, trumpeter Wheeler and trombonist Julian Priester (or Robin Eubanks).[1] Subsequently, he formed the Dave Holland Trio (with Coleman and DeJohnette) for the 1988 album Triplicate, and teamed with Coleman, electric guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith for Extensions.[1] He also recorded Life Cycle, an album of compositions played on solo cello.

The bassist also continued to collaborate with his peers, often connecting with figures from the previous generation of jazz icons. In 1989, Holland teamed with drummer Billy Higgins and pianist Hank Jones to record The Oracle, and joined drummer Roy Haynes and guitarist Pat Metheny in 1989 to record Question and Answer.

The 1990s and 2000s[edit]

During the 1990s, Holland renewed an affiliation, begun in the 1970s, with Joe Henderson, joining the tenor saxophonist on So Near (So Far), a tribute to Miles Davis, and Porgy & Bess. Holland also reunited with vocalist Betty Carter, touring and recording the live album Feed the Fire (1993). Fellow Davis alumnus Herbie Hancock invited Holland to tour with him in 1992, subsequently recording The New Standard. Holland joined Hancock's band again in 1996. He was also part of the sessions for River: The Joni Letters, winner of the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

As a leader, Holland formed his third quartet and released Dream of the Elders (1995), which introduced the vibraphonist Steve Nelson to his ensembles. Holland formed a quintet that includes tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks and, a more recent addition, drummer Nate Smith. Their recordings include Points of View, Prime Directive, Not for Nothin, Extended Play: Live at Birdland and Critical Mass. In addition to releasing four quintet albums on ECM, Holland debuted his Big Band, which released What Goes Around in 2002. The album won Holland his first Grammy as a leader, in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category. The second Big Band recording, Overtime (2005), again won the Grammy in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category; it was released on Holland's Dare2 label, which he formed that year.

In 2009, Holland was a co-founder of an all-star group called the Overtone Quartet. The group consisted of Holland on bass, Chris Potter on tenor saxophone, Jason Moran on piano, and Eric Harland on drums. The group toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

Awards and honors[edit]

He won the Critics Poll in Down Beat magazine for Musician of the Year, Big Band of the Year, and Acoustic Bassist of the Year (he also garnered top bassist in the 2006 poll). The Jazz Journalists' Association honored him as Musician and Acoustic Bassist of the Year. He was the recipient of the Miles Davis Award at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

The National Endowment for the Arts named Holland as one of its five Jazz Masters Fellows in 2017; the award recognizes artists for their lifetime achievements and exceptional contributions toward the advancement of jazz.[7]

Holland has received honorary doctorates from the New England Conservatory, Boston, where he held a full-time teaching position in 1987–88 and where he has been visiting artist in residence since 2005; Berklee College of Music, Boston; and the Birmingham Conservatoire, in England. He was also named Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). From 1982 to 1989, Holland served as the artistic director of the Banff Summer Jazz Workshop through the Banff School of Fine Arts in Alberta, Canada. In addition, he has taught workshops and master classes around the world at universities and music schools and is President of the UK-based National Youth Jazz Collective.


Studio albums[edit]

Title Release date Note Label
Conference of the Birds 1973 Dave Holland Quartet ECM
Emerald Tears 1978 Dave Holland; solo bass ECM
Life Cycle 1983 Dave Holland; solo cello ECM
Jumpin' In 1984 Dave Holland Quintet ECM
Seeds of Time 1985 Dave Holland Quintet ECM
The Razor's Edge 1987 Dave Holland Quintet ECM
Triplicate 1988 Dave Holland Trio ECM
Extensions 1990 Dave Holland Quartet ECM
Ones All 1995 Dave Holland; solo bass VeraBra
Dream of the Elders 1996 Dave Holland Quartet ECM
Points of View 1998 Dave Holland Quintet ECM
Prime Directive 1999 Dave Holland Quintet ECM
Not for Nothin' 2001 Dave Holland Quintet ECM
What Goes Around 2002 Dave Holland Big Band ECM
Overtime 2005 Dave Holland Big Band Dare2
Critical Mass 2006 Dave Holland Quintet Dare2
Pass It On 2008 Dave Holland Sextet Dare2
Prism 2013 Dave Holland Quartet Dare2
Aziza 2016 Dave Holland Quartet Dare2
Uncharted Territories 2018 Dave Holland, Evan Parker, Craig Taborn, Ches Smith Dare2 [2CD]
Another Land 2021 trio Edition

Live albums[edit]

Title Release date Note Label
Extended Play: Live at Birdland 2003 Dave Holland Quintet ECM [2CD]
Pathways 2010 Dave Holland Octet Dare2


Title Release date Note Label
Rarum, Vol. 10: Selected Recordings 2004 Dave Holland ECM [2CD]

Collaborative albums[edit]

Title Release date Note Label
Where Fortune Smiles 1971 Dawn
A.R.C. 1971 Chick Corea / Dave Holland / Barry Altschul ECM
Music from Two Basses 1971 Dave Holland / Barre Phillips ECM
Improvisations for Cello and Guitar 1971
; live
Dave Holland / Sam Rivers 1976 Dave Holland / Sam Rivers Improvising Artists
Sam Rivers / Dave Holland Vol. 2 1976 Sam Rivers / Dave Holland Improvising Artists
Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns 1975 Norman Blake/Tut Taylor/Sam Bush/Butch Robins/Vassar Clements/David Holland/Jethro Burns HDS
Vassar Clements, John Hartford, Dave Holland 1985
The Oracle 1990 EmArcy
Phase Space 1991
Oh! 2003
Blue Note
Hands 2010 Dave Holland & Pepe Habichuela Dare2
The Art of Conversation 2014 Kenny Barron & Dave Holland Impulse!
Without Deception 2020 Kenny Barron / Dave Holland Trio featuring Johnathan Blake Dare2

As co-leader[edit]

As group[edit]

As Circle With Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton, and Barry Altschul

Gateway With John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette

As sideman[edit]


Concert films[edit]

  • 1992 Renaud Le Van Kim: Miles Davis and Friends (Bravo)
  • 2000 DeJohnette, Hancock, Holland and Metheny Live in Concert
  • 2005 Dave Holland Quintet Live in Freiburg
  • 2008 Herbie Hancock & The New Standard Allstars in Japan (Jazz Door)
  • 2009 Dave Holland Quintet: Vortex
  • 2009 Dave Holland Quintet Live from the Zelt-Musik-Festival, Freiburg 1986

Featured in documentaries[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 609. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ Kelsey, Chris "Artist biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Dave Holland." Contemporary Musicians. Vol. 27. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2000. Retrieved via Biography in Context database 2 April 2017
  4. ^ "Holland, Dave | Encyclopedia.com". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Thelonious Monk Catalog". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Dave Holland | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  7. ^ Zimmerman, Brian (22 June 2016). "Bridgewater, Holland Among NEA 2017 Jazz Masters". Downbeat. downbeat.com. Retrieved 2 April 2017.

External links[edit]