Saturday, February 6, 2016

Dave Holland - 2013 "Prism"

Prism is a studio album by English jazz bassist Dave Holland. The record was released via the Dare2 label on September 2, 2013. This album is a milestone of Dave Holland’s career as a leader—the forty year anniversary of his debut, free jazz album Conference of the Birds released in 1973

For “Prism”, Dave’s latest recording, he’s assembled a quartet of outstanding players and composers who are also leaders in their own right, Kevin Eubanks on guitar, Craig Taborn on piano and Fender Rhodes, and Eric Harland on drums. The recording is representative of the wide range of musical references that these musicians incorporate into their music and it features compositions written by each of them for the group.
The album takes the listener through many musical landscapes starting with the infectious funky groove of the Eubanks’ composition “The Watcher” followed by one of Holland’s compositions, “The Empty Chair”, a soulful blues that hints at references to the music of Jimi Hendrix. Craig Taborn’s “Spirals” creates an intriguing setting for the group that moves through a series of dramatically changing musical developments and Eric Harland’s hauntingly beautiful composition “Breathe” provides a musical space that seems to suspend time.
The groups of Dave Holland have always reflected a collaborative spirit with the goal of creating a musical context that allows the musicians to express their creative individuality. “Prism” brings together four musicians who are each forging their own musical path and together have created a unique and contemporary musical statement on this recording.

It’s a great record. Part of what makes Prism sound specifically like “fusion” is the preponderance of tunes that do not “swing” in the usual sense but are instead built on tricky riffs that interlock with a groove that is heavy on backbeat. The opener, Eubanks’ “The Watcher”, begins with a funky line from the left hand of Taborn’s Fender Rhodes electric piano, and then Eubanks doubles it before he climbs on top with a distorted but very simple melody. The sound is thick with fuzz and buzz from both Eubanks and Taborn. All of it would make for a satisfying track, but then a tricky and precise bridge section comes along for pleasing relief. Taborn’s solo is the standout here: mathematical and intriguing as it moves and reverses, surges forward and doubles-back on itself.

Bassist Dave Holland first became a leader-on-record with Conference Of The Birds (ECM, 1973), a now-classic outré quartet session. That initial leader date portrayed Holland as a restless seeker, willing and eager to explore the inner workings of group dynamics and the outer reaches of convention, and he's done little to alter that perception of himself in the intervening years. Holland has, with band after band and album after album, continually broadened his outlook, creating a vast and enviable body of work along the way. Now, he celebrates four decades of leadership by introducing another potent foursome to the world.

On Prism, Holland reunites with three musical spark plugs from his past: guitarist Kevin Eubanks, who appeared on the bassist's Extensions (ECM, 1989), drummer Eric Harland, who worked side-by-side with Holland in The Monterey Quartet and then joined him for Pass It On (Dare2 Records, 2008), and pianist/Fender Rhodes man Craig Taborn, who's shared the stage with the bassist on a number of occasions over the past few years. As individuals, these gentlemen rank high on many a critic and fan's list of players; together, they form the most exciting and awe-inspiring quartet to debut on record this year.

The music this band delivers on Prism is like a vortex, sucking in everything within earshot. Interlocking patterns, excoriating lines, killer grooves and blazing solos are par for the course. Democracy prevails in all aspects, as each band member contributes music, muscle and more along the way. "The True Meaning Of Determination" is the perfect example of this one-for-all and all-for-one philosophy. Holland draws focus with his bass introduction, melodic delivery is a joint venture between two band mates, Eubanks' guitar singes everything in sight, Taborn takes the spotlight and has a blast chopping up the time with Harland, and everybody comes together to drive it home. It's nine-plus minutes of pure, heart-pounding bliss, and it doesn't even stand above the other tracks; nearly every performance here has a similar endorphin-producing effect. The band does operate in other areas, from the bluesy and soulful ("The Empty Chair (For Clare)") to the contemplative and free floating ("Breathe"), but they retain a group identity no matter where the music takes them. They sound best when they burn, but they still sound like the same unit when they simmer or stay put.

Prism isn't simply a great album by a great band; it's as good as jazz records come. Four months may separate this album's release and the close of 2013, but this one may have already sealed it up for "Album Of The Year" honors.  

Track Listing:

01   The Watcher [6:56]
02   The Empty Chair (For Clare) [8:31]
03   Spirals [8:46]
04   Choir [4:49]
05   The Color Of Iris [7:27]
06   A New Day [7:51]
07   The True Meaning Of Determination [9:19]
08   Evolution [10:24]
09   Breathe [5:40]

Personnel:

Dave Holland, bass;
Kevin Eubanks, guitar;
Craig Taborn, piano and Fender Rhodes;
Eric Harland, drums.

2 comments:

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  2. Excelente blog y gusto musical congratulations!

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