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Dave Holland Quintet: Critical Mass

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It’s been five years since Dave Holland’s quintet released an album of new material. The bassist hasn’t exactly been relaxing in the meantime; he put out two albums of big-band music and toured extensively, and released a stellar double-live CD by his quintet. And all the while, the least grateful among us have been hankering for some new music from Holland’s quintet. Well, here it is, and it holds its own against Prime Directive, the group’s most impressive release.

Some of Critical Mass retreads familiar ground: Holland’s “The Eyes Have It” and “Lucky Seven” would fit comfortably on any of this group’s previous releases. But on the whole, the quintet is a bit funkier than usual. That could be credited partially to the new drummer, Nate Smith, who admirably replaces the explosive Billy Kilson. But it’s more likely a byproduct of the DHQ’s coalescence over the years. The group-which includes saxophonist Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks and Steve Nelson on vibraphone and marimba-approaches composition and development with a sort of groupthink, to the point where each tune, no matter who has written it, seems to be a piece of a larger whole.

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