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Critical Mass

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 29, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Following up on his 2005 Grammy win for Overtime, Dave Holland returns with Critical Mass, the new album from the critic and fan favorite Dave Holland Quintet. The album features all of the original members including Chris Potter (saxes), Steve Nelson (vibes), Robin Eubanks (trombone) as well as new member Nate Smith (drums). The album includes 4 new Holland compositions as well as one from each of the band members. Critical Mass sounds like an album made by a group of world-class musicians that have performed together for nearly a decade. Great tunes and interplay that borders on musical telepathy.

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For years now, there has been no more proficient working band in jazz than the Dave Holland Quintet. Like such precursors as the Jazztet and the Jazz Messengers, it balances songcraft and improvisation with consummate ease. And the seasoned frontline of saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks and vibraphonist Steve Nelson goes beyond the usual tag-team solos in engaging in complex time schemes and coloristic shifts, extending themes and partaking of overlapping lines. Critical Mass boasts some of the band's catchiest tunes while showcasing its fondness for mussing up their clean foundations with free-spirited exchanges before restoring civility. The material ranges from bassist Holland's Middle Eastern-tinged "Secret Garden" to drummer Nate Smith's hip-hoppy "The Leak." Powerfully contained on tenor, Potter sounds like he's been listening to the great, departed Steve Lacy on soprano while Nelson plays up his percussive skills on marimba. If the album doesn't have the excitement of past efforts, that's partly because Smith, as strong as he is, doesn't have the sudden explosiveness of his precedessor, Billy Kilson. Perhaps, too, the band has settled a bit into familiar patterns. Still, this is a class act. --Lloyd Sachs
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 29, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sunny Side
  • ASIN: B000GNOSEU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,449 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeff Putterman on September 7, 2006
Format: Audio CD
The Dave Holland Quintet, in this version, has been together for what I believe is almost ten years (with the substitution of Nate Smith for Billy Kilson). The history, respect, support and love shows through here.

I am a big fan of each of these musicians as individuals, and as composers. As members of this group, they are selfless, which is almost remarkable. But considering how deeply musical they all are, I guess that is not surprising.

Having seen this band live many times, I can only add that when you have heard one virtually unbelievable solo, and think things can't get any better, you are wrong. Five geniuses, in a working band, is something that occurs rarely. Think of Miles with Wayne Shorter, or Blakey's combos, or the Benny Goodman Quartet.

If you dig this music, you must have this cd!!
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Format: Audio CD
Critical Mass is the first studio album in four years from what has become the premier working group in modern jazz, the Dave Holland Quintet. After a few early changes, the band's personnel has stabilized with Holland on bass, Chris Potter on tenor and soprano saxophones, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibraphone and marimba, and Nate Smith on drums. The album begins with "The Eyes Have It," featuring the group's always wonderful near-telepathic interplay and a strong and confident tenor saxophone solo from Chris Potter. "Easy Did It" is one of the discs highlights, starting with a mellow beginning and then building in tempo and intensity with some nice trombone soloing over vibes and drums, moving to an extremely hip vibraphone and drums duet before ending with an intense collective improvisation with Pottter on soprano saxophone anchored by some amazing drumming from Nate Smith.

"Vicissitudes" has some more impressive soloing from Chris Potter and a cool sounding vibes solo from Steve Nelson, and a funky drum and bass interlude. "Sacred Garden" takes on a Middle Eastern flavor, an area the group has explored successfully before. "Lucky 7" has a nice stuttering theme breaking out into a strong trombone solo. The most revelatory aspect of this album is the drumming of Nate Smith who is really becoming a star with his complex, yet funky drumming on this record. Combined with the shimmering and percussive quality of Nelson's vibes and marimba, the band becomes a rhythmic powerhouse. For the twenty-first century, this band has been the state of the art in modern mainstream jazz and proof that working groups make the most coherent records. This is yet another feather in their cap.
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the line-up of this david holland quintet became one of my favorite groups in jazz by managing to create a smooth sound, taking cues from big bands, and avoid becoming smooth jazz. added to the standard quintet instrument choices of tenor sax, bass and drums, are robin eubanks' trombone, a horn ordinarily associated with orchestras, and vibes beautifully played by steve nelson. chris potter on sax has plenty of space to either be laid back or spirited when necessary. in my opinion, potter's best playing is with holland. the trombone in the hands of eubanks oozes and smooths out notes, and joined with holland on bass and nate smith on drums there are plenty of rhythms and beats and melodies to go around from latin beats to cool jazz to be-bop sax solos.
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Format: Audio CD
I would have given this 4 1/2 stars if I could. Although, I find it difficult to give it five (call me picky)...I'll explain later. However, this isn't one that should be passed up by any means. This is one of the finest groups of musicians on the planet today in my opinion who didn't get all of their best recording awards for nothing. There is interplay and syncopation on all of Dave's recordings that is absolutely world-class like no other. DHQ, to me, always feels like big band music with an added groove all of their own. They know when to stay in line, when to get crazy, when to lay it down, and when to break into something completely unexpected. However, most of the time when I buy a cd, there are a few tracks that stick out right from the get-go...Prime Directive, Not for Nothin', and The Razor's Edge all had that. For me, this CD didn't have as much of that and didn't breathe as well as the previous recordings...hence the picky "4 1/2" stars, comparing it ONLY to Dave's previous works. Nevertheless, this CD is definately worthy of the DHQ fan and should not be passed up by any means. These guys are intensely serious about thier music and move the standard up with each release. I learn something new every time I listen to this group of overly talented musicians. Another job well done by a band that continues to amaze me with their tenacity.
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"Critical Mass" is superb melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically. Holland and the other members of his quintet are clearly masters of their instruments, each capable of stepping forward to make fresh statements but also willing to support one another completely. While the band clearly has learned from all that's preceded them, from New Orleans to New York and beyond, you'll hear no cliches. Rather, you'll enjoy listening in on innovative musical conversations between five players with lots of good ideas and the tools to share them. If you ever get a chance to hear this group live, don't pass it up. Watching Holland and his all-stars at work is the musical equivalent of having front row seats at an NBA finals game where teamwork rules and most of the shots are nothing but net.
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