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.
, 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.