With his current quintet, founded in the mid-90s, bassist Dave Holland has achieved something extraordinary by most people’s standards–but not by his own. As he did with his 80s quintet, he’s folded the signal elements of a decade’s music into a repertoire simultaneously representative of its era and intensely personal. Ripples of neoclassicism help shape his melodies, which also draw from rock, the European avant-garde, African music, and 60s free jazz; the interplay of instruments combines cool-jazz counterpoint with the aggressive dialogues of the M-Base collective. Because the success of Holland’s quintet ultimately depends on its powerful group dynamic, you might expect the individual strengths of its members to be obscured. But with the recent debut album by his scintillating drummer, Billy Kilson, at the helm of an outfit called BK Groove, Holland officially leads a band full of leaders. In the last several months the quintet’s two horn men have also issued awfully good records of their own: the exceptional Gratitude (Verve), saxist Chris Potter’s best effort under his own name, and Get 2 It (REM), a spicy electric-acoustic stew from trombonist Robin Eubanks’s new band, Mental Images. Vibist Steve Nelson hasn’t recorded with a group of his own in a few years, but he’s certainly blossomed, as both a soloist and as an ensemble player, during his time with Holland. Each musician knows how to fill a leadership role, and as sidemen they can exploit that knowledge without hogging the spotlight; as much as anything else, this gives the band its textural depth and its finely tuned balance of intellect and excitement. Behind it all, Holland just grins and goes on doing what he’s been doing, with his magnificent technique and majestic tone, for the last 30 years: setting the standard for modern jazz bass. Tuesday through Thursday, May 29 through 31, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, June 3, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.


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