Sean Rameswaram of the KUSP MJF crew tweeted the following during Prism’s set on the Main Stage: “Kevin Eubanks does for the guitar what Walter White did for meth.” That’s pretty much right: increased its chemical purity, puissance and power, all the while with a shaved head.
Prism – whose quartet album appeared only weeks before their appearance at MJF – is a kind of jazz supergroup. You know, like Blind Faith in the 70s, which brought together Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, or Asia in the 1980s, which brought together members of Yes, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, I’m pretty sure. “Prism” even kind of sounds like one of those band names.
Prism’s grey eminence is bassist Dave Holland – emeritus of Miles Davis‘s Bitches Brew, Conference of the Birds (1972) with Chick Corea, Barry Altschul and Anthony Braxton, and a string of excellent records under his leadership in the 1980s. Guitarist Kevin Eubanks played on great Holland albums, including Extensions (1988), but rose to prominence when he became the bandleader on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” Pianist Craig Taborn had left a deep impression on MJF listeners earlier this evening at the Night Club stage, with a rigorous, adventurous set. Drummer Eric Harland is the youngest of the four, and has played notably with saxophonist Charles Lloyd and with James Farm featuring Joshua Redman (a kind of jazz supergroup of its own).
Prism’s Main Stage set was a high-water mark for the festival: tight, empathetic, and just loud enough for the Arena setting. The rhythms were funky and the guitar figures were frequently rock-inflected. But even with electric guitar (and, at times, piano), the quartet’s intelligent set was almost always marked by the considered chamber music-like interactivity of the most delicate acoustic groups. A delicate balance: arena chamber jazz. This is the reason we go see live jazz, folks.
KUSP’s Brett Taylor and Geo Warner sat down for an interview with Holland, Eubanks, and Tayborn for an interview.