It can get a bit cosy in the cheap(er) seats at Ronnie’s and conversations start. “I was there that night”, the guy next to me said, “when Miles came in and heard him”. The story of how Dave Holland got the Miles gig never wears thin (after hearing the young Dave in a band opening for Bill Evans at the club, a call subsequently came from New York and Holland was on a flight to New York within a couple of weeks). The raconteur next to me remembered the bass player’s new suit on that night, although I fancy it was his playing that got him the gig. 45 years later and the man himself looked supremely relaxed as the band settled in to their places on stage and tuned up; a rap and and tap on the snare from Eric Harland, a silent tightening of a string from guitarist Eubanks, a pinged harmonic from Holland and a ripple of fourths from Craig Taborn on piano and Rhodes simultaneously. And then, what was tuning, by some alchemy had become a hypnotic vamp. They may have crept in with a whisper, but the opener A New Day became a roar as they each took turns in rocking out on the simple, cycling chord sequence. It was electrifying. At different stages of the evening a different member of this extraordinary group seemed to be stealing the show. Eric Harland, upright and still, laughing as if in delight at what his limbs appear to be doing -‘hey, check that out’ as an irresistible hail of rhythms layers over a monstrous groove; Craig Taborn locked in rhythmic combat with Harland in a scarcely believable percussive two handed workout that etched out a spiraling, sinuous harmonic progression at the same time, this on his own The true meaning of determination with a theme that sounded liked he was playing two complex wonky latin tunes at a breakneck tempo, a different one in each hand; Kevin Eubanks on Holland’s elegaic and gentle bluesily rocking The Empty Chair, a blazing guitar solo worthy of Jimi Hendrix but getting quieter and quieter the more furious and intense he got – a hold the breath moment. Is that why they played Eric Harland’s gorgeous ballad Breathe next? Dave Holland, was the still point at the centre, with that enormous sound and transparent delight in what was happening around him. A fabulous evening. If Miles had popped back for the evening, he’d have hired that bass player all over again for sure.
Dave Holland’s Prism, Ronnie Scott’s, Monday 7th July