Master bassist Dave Holland - who, aside from his many albums as a leader, has graced the sessions/ensembles of artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Bonnie Raitt, Hank Jones and Anthony Braxton - has put out his first album with a big band. The Down Side: some of the writing and arranging for these tunes sound kind of.... conservative and slick, which is a bit of a surprise considering the classic cutting-edge albums he’s part of, such as his Conference of the Birds [ECM]. Often the ensemble work recalls late 60s/early 70s Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman.... which is not a bad thing per se, but I was expecting a bit more bite, especially considering the caliber of the musicians involved. The Up Side: instead of the usual piano, Steve Nelson’s spirited, crackling, brittle-sound vibes are an inspired, refreshing touch, as are the occasional, delicious Ellingtonian tonal colors in the ensemble voicings ("Blues For C.M."). There’re lots of strong, varied solos, especially by Antonio Hart and Gary Smulyan. Bottom line: those expecting/hoping for the Holland-aise of The Razor’s Edge or Conference won’t find that here; but fans of modern big bands, i.e. Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Gil Evans, the aforementioned Herman, are urged to put aside any apprehensions re: stuff on ECM, players under 35, etc. and give this generous platter (76 minutes) a shot.