Prism featuring Dave Holland, Kevin Eubanks, Craig Taborn, and Eric Harland
Photo © Uli Gruber
Amid endless choices, the sound of a Dave Holland bass line compels attention. A master of tone and rhythm, the bassist, composer, and bandleader is now in his fifth decade as a performer and his music possesses a rich and kaleidoscopic history. His path has led him from the frontiers of free improvisation to his modern ensembles that fully embody the Sam Rivers-instilled philosophy of “playing all of it.” The Wolverhampton, England, native got his big break from Miles Davis, with whom he played during the trumpet legend’s epochal Bitches Brew period. Solo, and in collaboration, Holland became a dominant voice in the 1970s – partnering with Rivers, and working with folk and rock musicians such as Bonnie Raitt and John Hartford, and even had a passing encounter with Jimi Hendrix. He formed his first working quintet in 1983, and released Jumpin’ In, and continued to develop other varied and fruitful relationships with artists such as Anthony Braxton, Stan Getz, Cassandra Wilson, Jack DeJohnette, Chick Corea, Joe Henderson, Thelonious Monk, Betty Carter, Pat Metheny, Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell, Roy Haynes and Herbie Hancock over the course of his career.
In 2005, Holland formed Dare2 Records, after a long-standing relationship with ECM Records, the label where he had developed into a signature artist. Holland created Dare2 "to have more control over the entire process of releasing an album. But in the long term, there's a lot of promise in making music this way, especially with the changing environment in the recording industry." He has five albums on Dare2, including the Grammy-award winning Overtime (2005), Critical Mass (2006) and Pass It On (2008). Pathways (2010), the debut of the Dave Holland Octet, was nominated for a Grammy Award for best large ensemble album. Dave’s latest release is Hands, a collaboration with Spanish flamenco guitar legend, Pepe Habichuela.
Dave Holland returns to Monterey for the first time since 2007 with his new band, Prism, featuring guitarist Kevin Eubanks, keyboardist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland.
In the 40 years since Dave Holland's recording debut as a leader, with his landmark album, Conference of the Birds, the bassist, composer, and bandleader has produced a remarkable series of recordings and groups documenting his eclectic musical journey. On Prism, his latest album set for September 3, 2013 release on Dare2 Records (Holland's imprint, with distribution from Redeye), he introduces his latest working band (of the same name) to the world: an all-star quartet comprised of Kevin Eubanks on guitar, Craig Taborn on piano and Fender Rhodes and Eric Harland on drums. With each band member contributing distinctive compositions, Prism sets forth a new musical direction for Holland - a hornless quartet with an explosive and visceral edge, while maintaining an organic approach overall.
Debuting at the 2012 TD Ottawa International Jazz Festival last June, 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. Holland's groups have always reflected a collaborative spirit with the goal of creating a musical context that allows the musicians to express their creative individuality, a concept that is an underlying theme to the group's namesake and eclectic sound. "I liked the image of a prism dividing light into spectrum of colors," says Holland. "A visual symbol of the one becoming many. The music being a unification of diverse parts."
The resulting factor of these combined efforts on Prism, Holland's first album in nearly three years, is an electrifying outing that is equally groove-oriented as it is avant-garde. Jazzwise Magazine has already described the new project as Holland's "...most visceral recording for many years, recalling the uncompromising onslaught of his work with Miles [Davis] in 1970, and his own Extensions band in the late 1980s." Holland attributes a portion of this new musical direction to the instrumentation. "The sound of this group is different from other projects I've done previously," reflects Holland. "Most groups have featured horn players and I've rarely worked with keyboards in the band. But I wanted a different sound for this group and started thinking about a quartet with guitar, piano doubling on Fender Rhodes, bass and drums. That certainly has opened up some different musical directions."
In conceiving the band's personnel, Holland first looked to reunite with one of his oldest collaborators: guitarist Kevin Eubanks. The two began working together on various projects in the late 1980s, and Eubanks soon after led The Tonight Show Band from 1995-2010. "It's usual for me that the inspiration for putting a group together begins with the musicians that I want to play with. I'd felt a strong musical connection with Kevin when we'd played together previously and the time was right for us to get back together again." Craig Taborn and Eric Harland joined the group shortly thereafter, having both worked with Holland in different contexts over the past few years, and Prism was formed.
While Prism may have more of an electrically tinged focus on the surface (based in part by the instrumentation), Holland admits that the group's sound developed organically in various musical directions and that the compositions showcase a much wider range for the group than simply being classified as an "electric band." "It was part of the sound that I had imagined but it was only when we started rehearsing that the sound of the group really started to emerge," says Holland. "It was interesting how the compositions that each of us brought to the group reflected different ideas for the direction that the music could take and together made for a complimentary collection."
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. Taborn's "Spirals" creates an intriguing setting for the group that moves through a series of dramatically changing musical developments. Taborn is once again prominently featured with his dark intro to "The Color of Iris," setting a mood which is only slightly lifted with the entrance of Eubanks on guitar -- the pair weave in and out of the spotlight throughout the song, breaking for a solo by Holland halfway through. The bassist plays unaccompanied for the first minute of "The True Meaning of Determination," before Taborn and Eubanks enter with a melody played in unison, with harmonic precision. Eric Harland's hauntingly beautiful composition "Breathe" provides a musical space that seems to suspend time (putting spotlight on Taborn with an introspective solo piano intro).
Combining the celebrated virtuosity of Taborn on electric and acoustic pianos and the soulful scorch of Eubanks in the front line with Harland's matchless finesse and expressiveness, this decidedly plugged-in quartet is an explosive outlet for Holland at his unbridled best.