DAVE HOLLAND — Prism (review)

DAVE HOLLAND — Prism album cover Album · 2013 · Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Steve Wyzard
FUSION!

When I first reviewed Prism for another site 10 years ago, I will admit I kind of pooh-poohed it. It's not really a fusion album, I insisted. There are no organs, exotic substances, inner enlightenment, or sci-fi crossovers. I'd like to now walk this view back and own up, after listening to it for the last 10 years, to the fact that yes, it is a real fusion album. It should also be noted that unlike many Dave Holland albums, there are also no brass/horns, and it's not a big band album. So allow me to make myself clear: Prism is not only an honest-to-goodness fusion album, but it's also one of the very best jazz records of the 2010s decade.

Holland's cohorts on this album are Craig Taborn, piano and Fender Rhodes, Kevin Eubanks, guitars, and Eric Harland on drums. Do you enjoy frantically driven, intense soloing? You've come to the right place, for Prism provides bushels and bushels of it over its 70:07 runtime. I say this as someone who believes that very few studio albums merit a runtime of longer than 60-65 minutes, but in this case it's absolutely justified.

Wait until you hear Eubanks's twisted, distorted lines on "The Watcher", the Leslie-cabinet effect on "Choir", the Gibson hollow-body tone on the spooky "The Color of Iris", and the Wah-Wah pedal on "Breathe". His solo at the end of "A New Day" brings Wes Montgomery into the 21st century. More than just a non-stop soloist, he often doubles the melody lines with Taborn. Eric Harland is quite simply amazing, especially in a rimshot showpiece at the end of "Evolution". Taborn is the "most free" of this incomparable quartet: the quirky stops and starts of "Spirals" and the stunning piano solo on "The True Meaning of Determination" are beyond awe-inspiring.

And what of Holland himself? As always, he's the bedrock beneath the terra firma. His all-too-rare solos sound so effortless that they almost defer attention. In spite of throwing jabs like a heavyweight champ, the listener can almost take his lines for granted, so cohesively do they mesh into the musical fabric. And while no one would compare Prism to 1978's all-solo Emerald Tears, his dexterity, innovation, and virtuosity have not suffered after almost 50 years of recorded performances.

So yes, this is a fusion album, and if you haven't heard this yet, I strongly urge you to rectify that situation. Even at this late date, Prism deserves to be mentioned among the all-time greats of the genre.
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