When Miles Davis brought Dave Holland from London to New York in 1968 to replace Ron Carter in his band, the English bassist soon found himself at the forefront of the fusion movement in jazz. Holland played on the following year’s In a Silent Way, which hinted at the direction the trumpeter was about to take, and on 1970’s Bitches Brew, Davis’ full-blown, hugely popular, and highly controversial foray into fusing the improvisational spirit of jazz with the rhythms and volume of rock.
Holland returns to the fusion realm with Prism, which is the title both of his new CD on his own Dare2 label and the name of a blistering new quartet featuring guitarist Kevin Eubanks, keyboardist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. Eubanks, who first recorded with the bassist in 1988, gets an amazing array of electrified sounds — high-voltage screams, prickly staccato notes, sweetly searing warps — out of his instrument, and Taborn switches between acoustic and electric pianos.
Harland, perhaps the most consistently inventive drummer performing today, executes both funk and straight-ahead beats with aplomb, throwing unexpected cross-rhythms onto his path without tripping over them. The leader supplies a fat bottom to the proceedings with his upright bass, and his solos are models of subtle musical intelligence. Holland, Taborn, and Harland contributed two tunes apiece, and Eubanks wrote three. Holland’s bluesy, wonderfully laid-back “The Empty Chair (for Clare)” — which uses a groove akin to but slower than that of Donny Hathaway’s “The Ghetto” — is especially satisfying. (Dare2 Records)