Not for Nothin’

COMPOSERS: Billy Kilson,Chris Potter,Dave Holland,Robin Eubanks
LABELS: ECM
PERFORMER: Robin Eubanks (tb), Chris Potter (ss, as, ts), Steve Nelson (vib, marim), Dave Holland (b), Billy Kilson (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 014 004-2

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The third album by this line-up and the latest entry in Holland’s now huge ECM discography, this charts the progress of a band which has the contours and textures of a Modern Jazz Quartet: shapely, melodious, plenty of fire down below, but mollified by intellectual lines of inquiry. Holland contributes five compositions and the others bring in one apiece.

Nothing tops Robin Eubanks’s ingenious ‘Global Citizen’, which leaves clear air for some excellent improvising (Nelson is outstanding here) while never losing the thread of the composer’s structural ideas.

The title piece offers some gentlemanly funk, ‘Billows of Rhythm’ is easy to spot as Kilson’s tune, and though Potter’s ‘Lost and Found’ is rather wan, you’d be hard-pressed to look for anything listless or underpowered in terms of the overall result.

This isn’t barn-burning music and the band is no Jazz Messengers: it’s more a supercharged chamber group, with trombone and vibes displacing more aggressive hard-bop weaponry.

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The leader’s own playing reminds me of a colleague’s verdict on a gig where Holland was a sideman: ‘the only set where I actually looked forward to the bass solos’. Richard Cook