Bassist Dave Holland has been at the forefront of experimental, forward-thinking jazz ever since his formative years playing in Miles Davis' fusion ensemble. His 2013 album, Prism, finds Holland returning to his crossover funk roots with an able-bodied quartet. Featured here are former Tonight Show guitarist Kevin Eubanks, pianist/Rhodes keyboardist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. All of these musicians have reputations for playing adventurous, genre-bending styles of jazz, making them perfectly suited for the project at hand. Holland's fourth outing on his own Dare2 Records, Prism follows his 2008 sextet date Pass It On, his 2010 octet album Pathways, and his 2010 flamenco-inspired Hands. All of those records were equally engaging and progressive in their own ways, but none showcased Holland's interest in the angular, knotty funk and fusion he explores here. Tracks like the expansive "The Watcher" and the roiling "Spirals" feature explosive, frenetic soloing from the band as well as moments of layered group interplay. Elsewhere, cuts like "The Empty Chair" and "Evolution" explore a more minimalist, modal sense of atmosphere that allow for extended and far-reaching improvisational moments. For fans of Davis' Bitches Brew period, during which Holland was a member of the band, there is plenty of expansive, abstract soloing, Rhodes keyboard squelch, and fuzz-laden guitar. We also get several introspective songs on Prism, with the poignant, midtempo Eubanks feature "The Color of Iris," and the gorgeous Harland-penned "Breathe." Of course, Holland's bass is the grounding force for the ensemble, and thankfully, he gets plenty of room to stretch out from beginning to end.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar