You could forgive Dave Holland if he had decided to rest on his laurels instead of forming even one of his three current bands: by the 70s he had a well-established rep as the most versatile double bass virtuoso in jazz--and that was after he played electric bass on Miles Davis's Bitches Brew in 1969, when he was just 22. But since the 70s Holland has also proved himself a bandleader nonpareil, first with his quintet--which debuted in the early 80s and starred saxist Steve Coleman and trombonist Robin Eubanks--then building on that group to form his 13-piece big band in 2000. Now comes the golden mean: his midsize octet, which for its Chicago debut beefs up the smaller band with alto and baritone saxes and adds the redoubtable veteran Kenny Wheeler on trumpet. I can't quite imagine its purpose, since the octet presumably does the same thing as the big band--expand the palette of the quintet while adding new solo voices. But these days if you can't trust Dave Holland to come up with interesting music, you can't trust anyone. (And such ensembles have a strong track record, starting in the 40s with Dave Brubeck's proto-cool octet and Davis's Birth of the Cool nonet.) The show opens with a duo set of Holland and Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu, and few bassists are better qualified for such an exposed project. Now nearing 60, Holland's retained the qualities that propelled him to the head of the class four decades ago: a spectacular sense of time and space, a need for adventure, and an unmistakable alloy of supple technique and booming tone, which allows him to not just anchor his bands but animate them from within. Fri 3/24, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $23-$82.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.