All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

416

Dave Holland Quintet: Critical Mass

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
It's been five years since the last studio record by Dave Holland's quintet. But between touring on its own and as the core of Holland's big band, which was responsible for the outstanding Overtime (Dare2, 2005), the unit shows no sign of slowing down. Critical Mass proves that when the chemistry is right, even longstanding bands can continue to improve by introducing new elements, without forgetting what made them great in the first place.

The quintet has been together for close to a decade with only two changes. Saxophonist Chris Potter, who replaced Steve Wilson after Points of View (ECM, 1998), quickly evolved a virtually telepathic link with trombonist Robin Eubanks that has been one of the quintet's signatures. Despite the concern about drummer Billy Kilson leaving the group over two years ago, newcomer Nate Smith has already proven that while his overall approach is lighter, he's equally capable. Critical Mass is his first recording with the group, and there's been no loss of chemistry or distinct identity.

Always a democratic leader, Holland has once again encouraged everyone to contribute compositionally. The leader wrote half of the album's eight tunes, the other players one tune apiece. The group's sound has always been defined by its unique instrumentation: there isn't a sound like it anywhere else. Steve Nelson's vibes and marimba provide a chordal foundation for a trombone/saxophone front line. But even a unique textural conception can grow tiring after a number of years, and it's to these musicians' credit that this quintet remains as vital as ever.

Holland's "The Eyes Have It opens the disc on a familiar note; the bassist and drummer's inescapable groove makes even the most complicated bar shifts feel natural. Potter gets better with each passing year, employing the perfect combination of melodic invention and passionate energy. But it's after Holland's solo, where Potter empathically solos in tandem with an equally intuitive Eubanks, that we're reminded of this group's real magic.

Holland revisits the Middle Eastern vibe of Points of View's "Bedouin Trail, but "Secret Garden feels more authentic, the result of Smith's rhythmic yet textural approach, while Eubanks' "Full Circle proves that it's possible to swing in any time signature.

But the real surprise is saved for last. Nelson's own records have been decidedly mainstream efforts. On "Amator Silenti he's written an episodic composition that goes from a rubato tone poem to a lyrical ballad to angular free play, and that's something new for the quintet. After building to a fever pitch, it ultimately returns to its more melodic beginning.

Proof that it's possible to retain one's identity while breaking new ground, Critical Mass continues a streak of winning records for Holland that shows no sign of letting up.

Track Listing: The Eyes Have It; Easy Did It; Vicissitudes; The Leak; Secret Garden; Lucky Seven; Full Circle; Amator Silenti.

Personnel: Chris Potter: tenor and soprano saxophones; Robin Eubanks: trombone; Steve Nelson: vibraphone, marimba, tambourine; Nate Smith: drums; Dave Holland: bass.

Title: Critical Mass | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Fearless And Kind CD/LP/Track Review
Fearless And Kind
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 14, 2018
Read 25th Anniversary Project CD/LP/Track Review
25th Anniversary Project
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Any Day Now CD/LP/Track Review
Any Day Now
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Adrift CD/LP/Track Review
Adrift
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Folkjazz from Finland CD/LP/Track Review
Folkjazz from Finland
by Anthony Shaw
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Circulate Susanna CD/LP/Track Review
Circulate Susanna
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 13, 2018
Read "Crossing Borders" CD/LP/Track Review Crossing Borders
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 28, 2018
Read "Palmares Fantasy" CD/LP/Track Review Palmares Fantasy
by Chris May
Published: May 28, 2018
Read "Non é Prohibito" CD/LP/Track Review Non é Prohibito
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 13, 2018
Read "On the Road" CD/LP/Track Review On the Road
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 7, 2018
Read "Parallels" CD/LP/Track Review Parallels
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 8, 2018
Read "Flying Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Flying Heart
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 23, 2018