Not for Nothin'
Bassist Dave Holland came of age, more or less, in the loose-fitting Miles Davis bands of the late '60s and early '70s, so he's long understood Miles' modus operandi as a bandleader: corral the finest, most open-minded musicians into a cohesive unit and let the juices flow. Listening to the music from that franchise, you might hear the distinctive imprint of Wayne Shorter or John McLaughlin or Keith Jarrett, but you always knew, unequivocally, that what you were getting was Miles. The same holds true today with Holland's own working band, a dynamic quintet stocked with some of jazz's most compelling contemporary talent.
Consider Not for Nothin', which, like its predecessor, 2000's excellent Prime Directive, features at least one tune from each member of the band. Close listening may reveal subtle differences in these composers' respective methods, but it won't expose any cracks in the band's unified front. In fact, it may confuse matters further: scrutinize "Go Fly a Kite," a lovely waltz by vibraphonist Steve Nelson, and you'll find a fleeting, spiky 16th-note phrase that nearly invokes Holland's Conference of the Birds. The common denominator among these musicians is uncompromising groove; it pervades every tune on the bill, regardless of tempo or style (and despite asymmetrical time signatures that would slog a less-stalwart crew).
Other recurring motifs include clever counterpoint (a Holland hallmark), contrast in color and timbre and real-time improvisational dialogue (executed most seamlessly by saxophonist Chris Potter and trombonist Robin Eubanks on "Shifting Sands"). The caliber of musicianship in this group continues to astonish, and it would be impossible to single out highlights; suffice it to say that the 22/8 double-time section of "What Goes Around" elicits some of the very best Eubanks and Potter on record, both players demonstrating extraordinary control even as they stretch the sonic ranges of their instruments. Such effortlessly spine-tingling moments confirm Holland's stature as bandleader nonpareil-a Miles for the new era.