Regatta Bar

Dave Holland Prism Review – February 13, 2014

Look through a prism.  What do you see?  You’ll see light get split into all the colors of the rainbow.  But if you keep looking…and listening, you’ll see something that lies beyond that prism, woven between all the colors; something even more bright and magical – Dave Holland’s Prism.

Just a couple hours before Prism took the stage, greater Boston was a winter disaster.  Venues were closing every minute and when school was cancelled, too, I wondered if there would be a concert to go to, but luckily the band was already in town.  The weather finally calmed and two packed rooms were wowed beyond comprehension at the show they got to enjoy.  As I was waiting to go in for the second set, I heard numerous expressions of joy as people said things like “Was that good or what!?” or “Could you believe that!?” I (as well as some friends of mine that I was discussing this show with) am very familiar with Holland and all of his countless projects and work, but I frankly hadn’t had time to listen to this new album of his since it had come out and didn’t really know what kind of concert I was in for.  I knew only one thing – if Holland was involved, it was going to be good.  Good?  That isn’t even appropriate for how this new band played.  Awesome would be closer.  Rumors that this show was reminiscent of the electric era of Miles with a couple hints of avant-garde had me readily excited for what was to come.  As with many of the other shows at The Regattabar Jazz Club, very little could have prepared me for the show Prism put on.  The rumors were true.  Hints of Miles and avant-garde were in there – basically modern jazz that happened to be on the edge and electric.  This was also my first time experiencing Holland’s band mates, and whoa, Kevin Eubanks on guitar wasn’t holding a thing back during those sets.  Someone from the audience said it sounded like he was channeling John McLaughlin. Whether he was or not, Eubanks had total control of his instrument, going anywhere from quiet Frisell-ish volume swells to full-out gritty shredded solos.  The same goes for the other two band members, Craig Taborn and Eric Harland.  Both were very dynamic and expressive on their instruments and collectively, the quartet was taking jazz to new places.

In a show that was over an hour, one might be surprised that the group only played four pieces, but four glorious pieces they were.  The moment was right, the solos were great, and they just stretched the tunes out for as long as they wanted.  The four pieces were off their new album including two by Holland, “The Watcher” and “The Empty Chair,” and one each from Taborn and Eubanks.  (Now is also a time to remind you to buy their new album – it’s really great and it’s on vinyl, too!).  No matter how you originally knew Holland – be it from the iconic Bitches’ Brew album or his work with bluegrass legend, John Hartford, you’ll enjoy his new ideas just as much as ever.  There didn’t seem to be a single disappointed fan in the house.  Oh yeah, and Herbie Hancock just happened to drop in, too.  Surprise!

~Matt Scutchfield (contemporary composer and instrumentalist at Berklee College of Music)