Bassists have trouble attracting the spotlight: even Dave Holland, the best jazz bassist of the last 30 years, rarely gets the credit he deserves. That’s him on Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew; he’s also played in Circle with Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton, served as the vital center of Sam Rivers’s trio, and appeared on acclaimed albums by Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and Joe Henderson. And his 1980s quintet–which paired him with a longtime colleague, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, and served as a springboard for young altoist Steve Coleman–provided a forward-thinking mainstream alternative to the ossified neoclassicism promoted by Wynton Marsalis. In the mid-90s, Holland began assembling a new quintet, which has reached its peak thus far on the recent Prime Directive (ECM). The band’s unusual front line covers just about the entire tonal palette, from the airy upper register of Steve Nelson’s vibraphone to the massive bottom notes of Robin Eubanks’s trombone; the band’s newest member, spectacular saxist Chris Potter, fills in the middle. Nothing against Steve Wilson, the previous saxist (now with Corea), but Potter’s arrival has transformed a very good band into a truly great one. When this quintet played the Jazz Showcase last March, his solos consistently inspired tent-meeting huzzahs from the audience: both live and on the album, his improvisations take bracing, unexpected twists and turns, yet they hang together so well that most saxists would be happy to have composed them. Young drummer Billy Kilson deftly balances soulful swing and attention to structure, just as Holland’s compositions demand; in fact, beginning with “Conference of the Birds,” from the 1972 disc of the same name, Holland has gradually assembled a body of tunes as flawlessly crafted as his tone and technique. I plan on hearing these guys twice–they’re that good. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, May 12 and 13, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, May 14, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jimmy Katz.