Dave Holland Trio: Triplicate (ECM 1373)

Dave Holland Trio

Dave Holland bass
Steve Coleman alto saxophone
Jack DeJohnette drums
Recorded March 1988 at Power Station, New York
Engineer: James Farber
Produced by Lee Townsend

Triplicate is a fantastic (surprise, surprise) trio album that joins bassist Dave Holland with altoist Steve Coleman and rhythmatist Jack DeJohnette. This date’s quintessential opener, “Games,” comes from Coleman’s pen and showcases Holland’s love of play. The man with the upright plan is light on his feet here, DeJohnette even more so, while Coleman brings a chocolaty sound to his playing. Holland gives us his first of four compositions in “Quiet Fire,” which might as well fall under Coleman’s job description, such is the warming depth he elicits. In the wake of these tender considerations, Duke Ellington’s “Take The Coltrane” brings a different fire, this one whipped like cream into soft peaks. Coleman injects a classic energy into this tune, so vivid that we must readjust to Holland, who solos in a relatively quiet space. DeJohnette, on the other hand, kicks up the dust to match. With “Rivers Run” we’re back on the Holland track as he opens with a solo before that soulful alto breathes its magic into the air. Holland settles on a groovy line, picked up by DeJohnette’s cymbals and snared into an engaging roll. What seems a short and sweet ending then segues into a solo from the drummer, thereby inspiring the most spirited playing on the album from his bandmates. After a delicate rendition of “Four Winds,” we transition into Holland’s “Triple Dance.” Coleman winds fluently here, while Holland unseals a fantastic solo of his own. The trio take things down a few notches during DeJohnette’s “Blue,” regaling us with a smooth and tattered tale in which Holland’s understated brilliance shows us once again that he can lie low just as well as he can swing. Coleman likewise reveals the depths of his soul, and continues to do so amid the delicacies of the traditional “African Lullaby,” our final coddling before Charlie Parker’s “Segment” throws us back in the loop for an ecstatic close.

Triplicate is not an in-your-face album but one wrought with careful language. It avoids the danger of expletives in search of a clean melodic line. One imagines that if this album were alive, the audience would be whooping and clapping all the same, but in the studio a certain cleanliness of sound wins over. This has its pros and cons, depending on your preferences, but either way we can step outside of this record knowing we’ve just experienced something joyous.

<< Alex Cline: The Lamp And The Star (ECM 1372)
>> Eberhard Weber: Orchestra (ECM 1374)

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