Dare2984 221-6 ****Robin Eubanks (tb), Chris Potter (ts, ss), Steve Nelson (vib), Dave Holland (b) and Nate Smith (d). Rec. 2006 The more you listen to this record, the more you discover. Immediately accessible and approachable, the music may be nothing like the Modern Jazz Quartet but shares qualities in common: compositional values, fugue-like depth and integrity, thematic purpose and direction.
But then Holland’s group also have a down-home funkiness that belies any notion of the purely cerebral. Eight tracks, four by the boss and one apiece from the band members, and everything gels. For me, musicians who play with Holland somehow give their best stuff in the settings he creates but perhaps that’s just because everything seems so right. ‘Easy Did It’ has that lazy, sexy after-hours feel, while Potter’s ‘Vicissitudes’ is like a walk through the bustling heart of a major city. Drummer Nate Smith’s ‘The Leak’ has a real noirish groove and great marimba from Nelson and Holland’s ‘Secret Garden’ has a distinctly North African vibe. Critical Mass is a real journey of the senses.