JazzTimes - p.35Ranked #15
in JazzTimes' "Top 50 CDs of 2009" -- "[T]he quartet's rare gig coheres like of a band that's been road-tested."
The Monterey Quartet: Dave Holland (upright bass); Chris Potter , Eric Harland, Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
Personnel: Chris Potter (saxophone, tenor saxophone); Gonzalo Rubalcaba (piano); Eric Harland (drums).
Audio Mixer: Ron Davis.
Liner Note Authors: Jason Olaine; Paul De Barros.
In modern jazz, few supergroups are formed even for one-shot efforts due to scheduling, but the Monterey Jazz Festival has been inclined to forge bands of steel to perform at their legendary event. Ostensibly a Dave Holland quartet, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba is the missing link, one who has played in the U.S. only sporadically since the political ban of Cuban musicians in the 2000s. Happily he is here with Holland, former Holland quintet tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, and the fantastic drummer Eric Harland, who has been a regular member of Holland's quintet and big band. The difference is that this is in fact truly a co-op combo, with each member contributing original compositions. Rarely does such a band loaded with talent come together so cohesively, making some of the most exciting neo-bop-based music to come down the pike in recent memory. As Potter is a post-Michael Brecker stylist, the Harland composition "Treachery" starts off the set in that mode, with a dizzying array of rhythm changes, an Irish jig flavor, and music played at an incredibly high level by all. "50" was written by Rubalcaba for the festival's 50th anniversary, a high-powered bop-based piece that is unstoppable, and churns into a tasty, spirited, funky number urged on by the multifaceted pianist and Potter's expressionism that reflects both John Coltrane and the chortling sounds of Ernie Krivda. The piece contributed by Potter, "Ask Me Why," closes the program powerfully as a complex, quirky, spiky offshoot of a Thelonious Monk-inspired piece, countermanded in an exhaustive, assertive mood, with Latin branches and a kinetic attitude that leaves one gasping for air. Both Harland and especially Holland are given due solo space, the bassist on the intros of the tender and innocent "Maiden," for the drummer's wife, and in quieted urgency as is Holland's style in 10/8 time for the sleek "Step to It" with marvelous unity between Potter and Rubalcaba. There's stark mystery cued by Holland's ostinato lead during "Veil of Tears" with some additional curious subplot lines, and the slowed "Minotaur" contributed by Rubalcaba has a bolero flair, but a more dour approach. It would be difficult to deem this recording as anything less than flawless. It's beyond reproach in terms of originality, execution, and pure heartfelt jazz genius. Fans of any of these great musicians will need to have this in your collections, and it bears strong consideration as one of the best jazz releases of 2009. ~ Michael G. Nastos