is a bassist, composer, bandleader whose passion for musical expression of all styles, and dedication to creating consistently innovative music ensembles have propelled a professional career of more than 50 years, and earned him top honours in his field including multiple Grammy awards.
Over the course of a nearly five-decade career, bassist/composer Dave Holland has never stopped evolving, reinventing his concept and approach with each new project while constantly honing his instantly identifiable voice.
From the electric whirlwind of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew-era band to the elegant flamenco of his collaboration with Spanish guitar legend Pepe Habichuela; accompanying the great vocalist Betty Carter in her last years to forging a new sound with the pioneering avant-garde quartet Circle alongside Chick Corea, Anthony Braxton, and Barry Altschul; standing alongside legends like Stan Getz, Hank Jones, Roy Haynes, and Sam Rivers to providing early opportunities to now-leading players like Chris Potter, Kevin and Robin Eubanks, or Steve Coleman; Dave Holland has been at the forefront of jazz in many of its forms since his earliest days.
In 2013, Holland unveiled his latest quartet, Prism, a visceral electric band featuring his longtime collaborator and Tonight Show bandleader Kevin Eubanks, along with keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Eric Harland. In addition, Holland continues to lead his Grammy-winning big band; his acclaimed quintet with saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, and drummer Nate Smith; and the Overtone quartet, with Potter, Harland, and pianist Jason Moran.
Born in Wolverhampton, England in 1946, Holland shifted seamlessly between jazz traditions from the beginning. He moved directly from Ronnie Scott’s storied Soho jazz club to Miles Davis’ ground-breaking electric ensemble, where he met ongoing collaborators like Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, and Herbie Hancock. He also became a prolific sideman outside the jazz world, recording with rock and folk musicians including Bonnie Raitt, John Hartford, and bluegrass legend Vassar Clements.
A Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, where he studied from 1965-68, Holland has received honorary doctorates from Birmingham Conservatoire in England and both Boston’s Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory. He served as artistic director for the Banff Centre Jazz Workshop in Alberta, Canada for seven years in the 1980s and is currently an artist in residence at the Royal Academy of Music and the University of Miami.
is today appreciated both in the field of percussion and in the music world at large as an international phenomenon. A classical tabla virtuoso of the highest order, his consistently brilliant and exciting performances have not only established him as a national treasure in his own country, India, but earned him worldwide fame. His playing is marked by uncanny intuition and masterful improvisational dexterity, founded in formidable knowledge and study. The favorite accompanist for many of India's greatest classical musicians and dancers, he has not let his genius rest there.
Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Zakir's contribution to world music has been unique, with many historic collaborations including Shakti, which he founded with John McLaughlin and L. Shankar in the early 1970’s, the Diga Rhythm Band, Making Music, Planet Drum with Mickey Hart, Tabla Beat Science, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Eric Harland and recordings and performances with artists as diverse as George Harrison, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, Airto Moreira, Giovanni Hidalgo, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Cobham, Rennie Harris and the Kodo drummers of Japan.
A child prodigy, Zakir was touring by the age of twelve, the gifted son of his great father, tabla legend Ustad Allarakha. Zakir came to the United States in 1970, embarking on an international career which includes no fewer than 150 concert dates a year. He has composed and recorded many albums and soundtracks, and has received widespread recognition as a composer for his many ensembles and collaborations. He has composed soundtracks for the films In Custody and The Mystic Masseur directed by Ismail Merchant, Bertolucci’s Little Buddha, for which Zakir composed, performed and acted as Indian music advisor, Vanaprastham (The Last Dance), chosen to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May, 1999, Saaz, and Everybody Says I’m Fine.
Zakir received the distinct honor of co-composing the opening music for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, 1996. He was commissioned to compose music for Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, and to compose an original work for the San Francisco Jazz Festival, both in 1998. He has received numerous grants and awards, including participation in the Meet the Composer programs funded by the Pew Memorial Trust and an Izzie (Isadora Duncan Award) for his composition for Lines Ballet. In 2000, Zakir worked again with choreographer Alonzo King, this time composing music for The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 2002, his commissioned work for choreographer Mark Morris’ “Kolam” premiered as part of Yo Yo Ma’s “Silk Road Project” with Yo Yo and Zakir performing together live for the performance. In September, 2006, Triple Concerto for Banjo, Bass and Tabla, a piece co-composed by Zakir, Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck, was performed by the trio with the Nashville Symphony at the gala opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall in Nashville. Zakir reunited with choreographer Alonzo King in 2007 for Lines Ballet’s 25th anniversary celebration, creating acclaimed music for King’s new work, Rasa. Also in 2007, the government of India chose Zakir to compose an anthem to celebrate India’s 60th year of independence. The song, “Jai Hind”, has been recorded by an array of India’s finest classical vocalists and pop singers.
The recipient of countless honors, Zakir has received the titles of Padma Bhushan, in 2002, and Padma Shri, in 1988, becoming the youngest percussionist to be awarded these, given to civilians of merit, by the Indian government. In 1990, he was awarded the Indo-American Award in recognition for his outstanding cultural contribution to relations between the United States and India. In April, 1991, he was presented with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the President of India, making him one of the youngest musicians to receive this recognition from India's governing cultural institute. In 2006, he was the recipient of the prestigious Kalidas Samman, an award for artists of exceptional achievement, from the government of Madhya Pradesh. In 2007, readers’ polls from both Modern Drummer and Drum! magazines named him Best World Music and Best Worldbeat Drummer respectively.
In 1987, his first solo release, Making Music, was acclaimed as "one of the most inspired East-West fusion albums ever recorded." In 1992, Planet Drum, an album co-created and produced by Zakir and Mickey Hart, was awarded the first-ever Grammy® for Best World Music Album, the Downbeat Critics’ Poll for Best World Beat Album and the NARM Indie Best Seller Award for World Music Recording. Planet Drum, with Zakir as music director, toured nationally in 1996 and 1997. The band has re-emerged as Global Drum Project, touring extensively in 2007 and 2008.
In 1992, Zakir founded Moment! Records, which features original collaborations in the field of contemporary world music, as well as live concert performances by great masters of the classical music of India. The label presents Zakir's own world percussion ensemble, The Rhythm Experience, both North and South Indian classical recordings, Best of Shakti and a Masters of Percussion series. Moment Records’ 2006 release Golden Strings of the Sarode with Aashish Khan and Zakir Hussain was nominated for a Grammy® in the Best Traditional World Music category for that year.
Zakir is the recipient of the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the United States’ most prestigious honor for a master in the traditional arts, presented by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the United States Senate on September 28, 1999. In 2005, he was named an Old Dominion Fellow by the Humanities Council at Princeton University, where he resided for the 2005-2006 semester as full professor in the music department, teaching a survey course in Indian classical music and dance. In the spring of 2007, this course was taught again by Zakir, this time at Stanford University.
A world-class soloist, accomplished composer and formidable bandleader, saxophonist Chris Potter has emerged as a leading light of his generation. Down Beat called him "One of the most studied (and copied) saxophonists on the planet" while Jazz Times identified him as "a figure of international renown." Jazz sax elder statesman Dave Liebman called him simply, "one of the best musicians around," a sentiment shared by the readers of Down Beat in voting him second only to tenor sax great Sonny Rollins in the magazine's 2008 Readers Poll.
A potent improvisor and the youngest musician ever to win Denmark's Jazzpar Prize, Potter's impressive discography includes 15 albums as a leader and sideman appearances on over 100 albums. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his solo work on "In Vogue," a track from Joanne Brackeen’s 1999 album Pink Elephant Magic, and was prominently featured on Steely Dan’s Grammy-winning album from 2000, Two Against Nature. He has performed or recorded with many of the leading names in jazz, such as Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, John Scofield, the Mingus Big Band, Jim Hall, Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, Ray Brown and many others.
His most recent recording, Ultrahang, is the culmination thus far of five years’ work with his Underground quartet with Adam Rogers on guitar, Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, and Nate Smith on drums. Recorded in the studio in January 2009 after extensive touring, it showcases the band at its freewheeling yet cohesive best.
Since bursting onto the New York scene in 1989 as an 18-year-old prodigy with bebop icon Red Rodney (who himself had played as a young man alongside the legendary Charlie Parker), Potter has steered a steady course of growth as an instrumentalist and composer-arranger. Through the '90s, he continued to gain invaluable bandstand experience as a sideman while also making strong statements as a bandleader-composer-arranger. Acclaimed outings like 1997’s Unspoken (with bassist and mentor Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and guitarist John Scofield), 1998’s Vertigo, 2001’s Gratitude and 2002’s Traveling Mercies showed a penchant for risk-taking and genre-bending. "For me, it just seemed like a way of opening up the music to some different things that I had been listening to but maybe hadn’t quite come out in my music before," he explains.
Potter explored new territory on 2004’s partly electric Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard (with bassist Scott Colley, drummer Bill Stewart and keyboardist Kevin Hays) then pushed the envelope a bit further on 2006’s Underground (with guitarist Wayne Krantz, electric pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Nate Smith). As he told Jazz Times: "I've wanted to do something more funk-related...music that seems to be in the air, all around us. But also keep it as free as the freest jazz conception."
He continued in this electrified, groove-oriented vein with 2007’s Follow The Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (with guitarist Adam Rogers replacing Krantz in the lineup). Says Potter of the adventurous new path he’s carved out for himself with his bass-less Underground quartet: “There was a point where I felt like the context I had been using before wasn’t quite working to express what I wanted or to move forward in some kind of way. My aesthetic as a saxophonist has always been based in Bird and Lester Young and Sonny Rollins and all the other greats on the instrument. What I’ve learned from them in terms of phrasing, sound, and approach to rhythm I’ll never outgrow. However music’s a living thing; it has to keep moving. I’ve been touched by many forms of music, like funk, hip hop, country, different folk musics, classical music, etc., and for me not to allow these influences into my music would be unnecessarily self-limiting. The difficulty is incorporating these sounds in an organic, unforced way. It helps me to remember I want people to feel the music, even be able to dance to it, and not think of it it as complicated or forbidding. If I can play something that has meaning for me, maybe I’ll be able to communicate that meaning to other people, and the stylistic questions will answer themselves.”
With the ambitious Song For Anyone (released in 2007 also and dedicated to the memory of Michael Brecker), Potter flexes his muscles as an arranger on original material for an expanded ensemble featuring strings and woodwinds. "That was a learning process," he says of this triumphant tentet project, "because I hadn’t done anything on that scale before. I just decided to sit down and write, and it was extremely gratifying to see how it translated into live performance."
Looking back over his 20 years since arriving in New York, Potter says, “I’ve had the chance to learn a lot from all the leaders that I’ve worked with. Each gave me another perspective on how to organize a band and make a statement. It’s taught me that any approach can work, as long as you have a strong vision of what you want to do.”
His initial gig with Red Rodney was an eye-opening and educational experience for the 18-year-old saxophonist. “I wish I had had the perspective I have now to appreciate what a larger-than-life character Red was.” Potter's years with Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band represented a wholly different approach from Rodney’s old school bebop aesthetic on stage. “Motian has really had a big affect on the way that I think about music,” says the saxophonist. “He approaches things from such an anti-analytical way. It’s so different than so many of the other musicians that I’ve had a chance to work with. Motian more relies on his aesthetic sensibility and his instinct. He’s basically just trusting his gut and he’s so strong about it that he can make it work. And it takes a lot of courage to do that.”
From bassist-bandleader Dave Holland he learned about the importance of focus and willpower. "Dave is determined to make his music as strong as possible and present it in the best way," says Potter, who has been a member of Holland's groups for the past 10 years. "Playing with him, you have the feeling there’s this mountain standing behind you that you can completely rely on. Working with him over the years has helped me see the true value of believing in what you’re doing.”
Potter also cites his time on the bandstand with guitar legend Jim Hall as inspirational. “The way that he can be both melodic and sweet and deeply inventive and open-minded at the same time made a big impression on me," he says. Touring and recording with the enigmatic duo of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker (Steely Dan) offered further insights into the artistic process. “They totally went their own way," says Potter. “I have a lot of respect for them and their commitment to their art.”
And Potter has remained committed to his art since his formative years. Born in Chicago on Jan.1, 1971, his family moved to Columbia, South Carolina when he was 3. There he started playing guitar and piano before taking up the alto saxophone at age 10, playing his first gig at 13. When piano legend Marian McPartland first heard Chris at 15 years old, she told his father that Chris was ready for the road with a unit such as Woody Herman’s band, but finishing school was a priority. At age 18, Potter moved to New York to study at the New School and Manhattan School of Music, while also immersing himself in New York’s jazz scene and beginning his lifelong path as a professional musician.
Now a respected veteran (as well as a new father), Potter continues to work as a bandleader and featured sideman. Surely many interesting chapters await. As his longtime colleague, alto saxophonist-composer Dave Binney, told Down Beat, “Chris is open to anything now. From here on anything could happen.”