Supergroups thrown together for jazz festivals are, as a general rule, a disappointment. The chemistry of a regular working unit is usually missing, and they tend to resort to "theme-solo-theme" weariness. Not so when the supergroup is made up of dedicated composers and listeners such as The Monterey Quartet, assembled on the occasion of Monterey's 50th anniversary celebration concerts in 2007.
Bassist Dave Holland, together with two familiar playersChris Potter and Eric Harlandare joined by the Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. In a quartet setting, each player carries equal weight both on playing and, in this case, composing. Each contributes two tunes to this live date.
The audience picks up on the high energy level from the start. The musicians are encouraged to push the envelope throughout, gaining momentum as each song is played. This is definitely not a blowing session, each player remains engaged, urging the music into the stratosphere.
Harland, a Wynton Marsalis disciple, has recently held the drum chair in Charles Lloyd's bands, working regularly with the Indian tablaist Zakir Hussain. His energy is most apparent here. Together with Holland they propel (maybe launch is a better word) the pairing of Potter and Rubalcaba on the bassist's "Step On It." Likewise Rubalcaba's "50," a funky dash-and-dart piece, oozes pure effervescence. The pianist plays with a bluesy swing that goes toe-to-toe with Harlan.
The proof, though, is in the slower pieces, the Rubalcaba's bolero "Otra Mirada" and Harlan's "Maiden," where the music relaxes into appreciable bits. The interplay is more assumed and consumed. Potter's tenor rises to each occasion.
This assembled supergroup could beno, should bea working band. Well done.