Just as a basketball team with two great scorers has a problem - there's only one ball - so does a big band with lots of great players. Are there enough notes in the room for everyone?
While that's not exactly a real concern, the presence of so many top-flight soloists in the Dave Holland Big Band brings up a humorous conundrum. "What Goes Around," which ended Holland's second Painted Bride set Saturday night, had tenorist Chris Potter and trombonist Robin Eubanks collectively improvising to establish an intense tone for the show's end.
The solo of grizzled veteran Potter was the penultimate of the night, and it was at the same time mathematically precise and desperately insistent. Even when he played at rapid-fire tempo, his rhythmic ideas and phrasing were exacting. Eubanks, on the other hand, used his trombone to mimic and expand some of his own electronic ideas; the bending of notes and compression of sounds he created with his hands, mouth, and brain were just as impressive - if not more so - as the stuff he's done with electronic help.
Other soloists - all, really - impressed as well, with trumpeter Alex "Sasha" Sipiagin's romantic take on "First Snow" a standout because its impressionistic but muscular flugelhorn meshed well with the underlying intricacy of the tune's arrangement. For sure, in this 13-man ensemble, dynamics were more than just an element. They were an entity unto themselves, as were textures, which, with Holland, can be mesmerizingly complex or cannily straightforward. Throughout the night, Holland often had cross-sectional blends working together - trombone with baritone and tenor, all saxes with one 'bone, the trumpets with alto sax.
And because Holland has had the luxury of keeping his lineup largely intact for the last eight-plus years, each player's familiarity with the repertoire and the other players has produced a cohesive unit.
One player who is relatively new is drummer Nate Smith, who had many moments of inspiration with Holland. Sometimes the leader stood alone and brought funky, thought-provoking solos. But late in the evening, an extended exchange between Smith and Holland brought up memories of Sting and Omar Hakim in 1986, and while Smith's contribution was not as spectacular as the reference point, the duet worked well on its own merit.