on 19 January 2014
This came in my Xmas stocking after I first read a review in The Guardian and I put it on my wishlist. I'm not greatly familiar with Dave Holland's output but the Not For Nothin' CD has been on my shelves for a while and enjoyed. However, the idea of something with a more electric, jazz-rock feel appealed.
I think you can generally reckon that you're doing well when the first couple of tracks on a album just really pull you in, and that's what you get here. "The Watcher" is a medium tempo piece with plenty of drive and "The Empty Chair" a slower bluesy number. In contrast to another reviewer here, one of the big revelations for me on this album is the guitar playing of Kevin Eubanks. I knew the name, but I'd never heard him play on anything. Wel,, I guess I shall be looking for more. He doesn't overdo the effects here, mostly just a modest amount of fuzz, but he can certainly do the rapid stuff along with the best of them. Somehow this all seems in keeping with the album - music that could have been played mostly acoustic but just happens to be a bit more electric.
The other two musicians on the album are Craig Taborn on piano and Rhodes with Eric Harland on drums. Again, both new to me but both fitting into the ensemble perfectly. Harland has pleasing loose but rocky-when-it-needs-to-be style that reminds me a bit of Vinnie Colaiuta playing with John McLaughlin and Chick Corea in the Five Peace Band.
This is a fine album that is immediate;y accessible. Enjoyable at the first listening and just getting more so at each listening, which at the present count is already - lots!
‘Prism’ is a powerhouse fusion record from 2013. It veers from rocking thickly textured ensemble work like the Mahavishnu Orchestra used to pump out in their prime, to delicate little keyboard filigrees that enchant with their wispy melodiousness. It’s a highly varied menu, but the accent is on rock with jazz and other influences attached, rather than jazz with a hint of something more direct and primeval. The writing, production and performance as other observers have noted is pretty ace. Particularly pleasing is the ‘tightness’ of the whole thing: this approach manifests itself in the way that the tunes are structured and melodic, and solos seldom if ever, outstay their welcome. I rather like the loping blues of ‘The Empty Chair’ (Dave Holland’s acoustic bass is beautiful here), the ominous ‘The Color of Iris’ and the reflective ‘Breathe’. Other listeners will have different preferences I’m sure, but they will agree no doubt about the great musical experience that this album has to offer.
My only slight criticism is that guitarist Kevin Eubanks, great player though he is, does tend to dominate on occasion and his tone is somewhat drenched in fuzz effects ( and Lord knows what else!), obscuring what are no doubt worthwhile contributions.
Overall, mild carping aside, this is a great album.
on 24 March 2014
You know when you go for a walk in the countryside, and when you return home there's that lovely satisfied feeling? You're charged with natural energy and satiated at the same time. That's what this album does for me. It's full of paradoxes and in this way gives you a full spectrum of feelings and musical energies, leaving you with that complete sense of contentment. It's a whole work, there seems to be nothing missing. You're taken on a journey from hard-as-nails funk, 'metal' jazz through to delicate, introspective melancholy reveries. It feels like a pinnacle of contemporary jazz that simultaneously harks back to the best of the 70s-90s eras yet pushes the frontiers into new territory. Musicianship is awesome, and the relationship that each has with the others is awesome. I'm currently being blasted off my feet by the drumming, however each new listen draws the ear to the merits of all the players: too much to talk about, and no doubt bore any reader to death! Got to be a landmark album. Just buy it.
So, let's just check.
Did you think this was a review of Katy Perry's Prism?
If so, try again. You got the right title, but wrong artiste.
That cleared up, you may also be forgiven for thinking, on hearing the first track on Dave Holland's latest, that Bob Fripp had some input into the opening track, it's so rock-oriented, although King Crimson's spectrum was largely focused on Red.
Yes, almost inevitably the cover shows not a prism but the colours of the rainbow emanating from such an object, making it look like one of the rejected designs for Dark Side Of The Moon (Pink Floyd's, not Medicine Head's; another case of two albums released in close proximity sharing a title).
Thereafter, Kevin Eubanks's The Watcher gives way to the other colours of the rainbow, closing with the violet of Breathe (again, echoes of Floyd's Dark Side!), a peaceful composition courtesy, surprisingly, of Eric Harland, the drummer, a species usually associated with more volume.
The tracks in between are, however, more nuanced, sometimes featuring several colours of the spectrum at once (Any Colour You Like? Enough Pink Floyd!), and the writing credits are distributed more or less evenly, with Eubanks, guitar, penning three, and Holland, Craig Taborn (keyboards) and Harland two each.
Eubanks's second composition, The Color Of Iris (yep, American spelling), is a gentle affair throughout, but whilst his third, Evolution, running at over ten minutes, starts slow and smooth, by its end it has picked up some almost Mahavishnu-level pyrotechnics.
Holland's The Empty Chair is bluesy and moderate-paced, whilst A New Day begins soft and slow, but gathers pace toward the end without quite achieving the intensity of Evolution.
Spirals, by Taborn, does exactly that, in a manner similar to many Steve Coleman tunes. His other, The True Meaning Of Determination, carries a similar theme to Spirals, but the band goes off at more tangents on this one.
And Harlan's other piece, Choir, has a calypso-like feel, fast and, dare I say, danceable.
So, no covers of I Kissed A Girl, and very different from Holland's flamenco collaboration with Pepe Habichuela, Hands, but another serious contender for my favourite release of the year.