Dave Holland Full Bass Line & Solo - "The Oracle"

Updated: Jan 17, 2020

Dave Holland - By Brianmcmillen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

When I recently came across this beautiful piece off the 2014 album "The Art of Conversation" featuring duo Dave Holland and pianist Kenny Barron, I was all over it.

Holland composed The Oracle, a 12-bar melody plus a vamp on Dm7sus4. Listening to some different recordings on YouTube like the 1990 album "Extensions" with his quartet, the group takes some liberty on the length of the vamp from version to version.

Holland's compositions usually throw me for a loop, in a good way, since I never know what he'll do next. One time I was forced against my will to play Processional, a 12 bar blues in 5/4 time played at a snail's pace.

It did not go well.

Anyway, one common thread in Holland's solos can be heard in the way he does interesting things with simple shapes. Triads, or two or three note groupings, etc... rudiments you'd practice alone in your room, but then connected into longer phrases and melodies. For example:

  • Measure 93. A simple rhythm and similar intervals with each grouping... all notes from the D minor scale.

  • Measure 97. If you took a pencil, connected the "dots" from note head to note head, you'd have a kind of mountaintop shape that lasts about a measure. This movement is repeated many times through the rest of the solo... measure 98, 99, 101, 102, from measure 103 to 104, 106, 121 (extended for several measures), 125.

  • Notice the way he'll repeat rhythms 2-3 times during his solo. e.g. Measure 93 is the same rhythm 4 times in a row! Then measure 95... 3 times. The rhythm in measure 107 is repeated VERBATIM in measures 108 and 109. The rhythms in measure 115, again 3 times. These create wonderful little mini-melodies... launching points for further development.

  • I also LOVE the way that Barron keeps time throughout the solo by marking beat 1 with the appropriate chord. He keeps the train on its tracks, so to speak, which I'd imagine is super-helpful --particularly in moments where Holland plays phrases over the barline

Image credit: Dave Holland - By Brianmcmillen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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