STATE OF THE ART: If you don’t like Dave Holland, you don’t like jazz.
Once a certified member of the avant-garde (Sam Rivers Trio, Anthony Braxton Quartet, his own Conference of the Birds) and proto-fusion movement (early electric Miles), bassist Dave Holland is now mainstream. Or maybe it’s that the mainstream has moved closer to him. He twists standard tonalities and fixed meters as far as possible while staying in the pocket. Funk and jazz grooves mix and overlap, and even his most extended forms have a songlike narrative. On Critical Mass his themes juxtapose sweet melodies and tart counterlines by saxophonist Chris Potter and trombonist Robin Eubanks. Vibist Steve Nelson “chords” with his double-mallet attack, sketching the harmonies with a tangy ambiguity. Holland’s writing alludes to classic hard bop (“The Eyes Have It”), Eastern mysticism (“Secret Garden”), and verse-chorus-verse pop (“The Leak”). He opens up his forms with varied arrangements: a vibes solo followed by a soprano-sax/trombone duet (“Vicissitudes”); a loping odd meter that moves into a 4/4 walk for vibes; a deathless drum/bass groove for tenor and trombone solos (“Full Circle”). “Amator Silenti” even gets into some out-there blowing you could call avant-garde. The playing all around is stellar (Kevin Smith is the band’s excellent new drummer), and that makes Critical Mass a good litmus test: if you don’t like it even a little bit, you probably don’t like jazz.
Dave Holland Quintet | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge | October 26-27 + 29 | 617.395.7757