Dave Holland Quintet
Dave Holland double-bass
Robin Eubanks trombone
Chris Potter soprano, alto and tenor saxophones
Steve Nelson vibraphone, marimba
Billy Kilson drums
Recorded December 10-12, 1998 at Avatar Studios, New York
Engineer: James Farber
Produced by Dave Holland
Chris Potter replaces Steve Wilson as reedman in this follow-up to the Dave Holland Quintet’s Grammy-nominated Points of View. The band’s tremendous communication and obvious joy embolden a strong set of nine tracks, five of which come from Holland’s pen, starting with the title. The addictive rhythms are quintessential Holland and usher us into a sound-world that one hardly wants to leave. In this respect, drummer Billy Kilson rules the roost from start to finish. Working seamlessly with Holland as Potter and trombonist Robin Eubanks cast nets over Steve Nelson’s liquid crystal vibes, he engenders a pollinated groove without fail. Kilson further inspires his band mates to step up their rhythmic game, as in “Jugglers Parade,” which boasts a fine example of Holland’s ability to embolden even the most upbeat solos through an inborn lyrical power (not to mention some lovely sopranism from Potter on the recharge), and “Down Time,” the closing trio number with Eubanks in the lead. Potter takes up Kilson’s call most creatively in “Looking Up,” as does Nelson in an epic solo. The smoky rejoinder from Eubanks morphs into a percolating extravaganza and recedes for a quiet yet robust solo from Holland. The leader-bassist seems to deliver a caravan track in every session, and this time around “Make Believe” is it. A sandy and romantic excursion, it spreads the night sky like paper, across which Potter inscribes a love letter to the art of improvisation.
Holland’s coconspirators offer a tune each. Eubanks steals the show with his fireside dance, “A Searching Spirit,” pulling out a bubbling yet punchy solo, while Nelson gallivants through Kilson’s inescapable groove. The alto touches on the downswing foreshadow Potter’s equally upbeat “High Wire.” Nelson sweeps back with his forlorn “Candlelight Vigil,” which feels like an epilogue, a coda, an honest sigh. Kilson bows out here, while Holland picks up his bow for some fluid talk. The drummer returns on his “Wonders Never Cease,” which from a soulful intro by way of Holland looses a stream of inspired beats.
Prime Directive is a listener’s gift, wrapped and tied with a bow, and a viable contender for Holland’s finest ECM session.