Dave Holland - Prism
(OKeh 88883721802. CD Review by Chris Parker)
Since accepting Miles Davis’s career-changing invitation to join the trumpeter’s groundbreaking electric late-1960s/early-1970s band, Wolverhampton-born bassist Dave Holland has become one of the most compelling forces in jazz, leading a series of tight, muscular units playing music which, while not always at the stylistic cutting edge (though he has sporadically immersed himself in the avant-garde), is none the less responsive to the subtlest currents affecting the music, year to year.
This quartet -– like its predecessors involving musicians such as Robin Eubanks, Chris Potter, Steves Nelson and Coleman etc. – is at once immediately recognisable as a Holland band (musicianly, buoyantly propulsive, its music dynamic yet controlled) and refreshingly open to individual members’ influence. Consequently, over the leader’s trademark driving bass, Kevin Eubanks plays fierce, eloquent guitar; Craig Taborn contributes discursive, idiosyncratic piano and carefully textured keyboards; and drummer Eric Harland snaps, rustles and tumbles, not so much rapping out rhythms as diving head-first into them.
The material on Prism is similarly democratic: each bandmember (except Eubanks, who has written three), contributes two pieces to the set, resulting in the album moving satisfyingly between Eubanks’s relatively straightforward, pungent jazz-rock, Harland’s brightly rhythmic ‘Choir’ and graceful closer ‘Breathe’, and Taborn’s quirkily hypnotic eccentricity.
Holland himself contributes an achingly touching threnody for his wife Clare (who died in September 2011), ‘The Empty Chair’, and a typically pulsating upbeat piece, appropriately titled ‘A New Day’, but whether they’re playing punchy, rock-inflected music or ostensibly more complex, time-shifting jazz, Holland’s stellar band contrive to imbue the ballads with a deeply affecting, consoling tenderness and the more up-tempo material with the vivid, bristling urgency that has always characterised Holland’s music.
It’s difficult to imagine a more likely candidate for Album of the Year: Prism delivers pure, unalloyed pleasure for all of its 70 minutes.