…this debut recording continues to delight, and serve as reminder of how from humble beginnings a true supergroup emerges.

ECM 1061 / 450 5334 (Luminessence Series – Audiophile Vinyl Edition)

John Abercrombie (guitar); Dave Holland (double bass); Jack DeJohnette (drums)

Recorded March 1975

Heralded as a supergroup at the time of release in October 1975, the band was perhaps not yet reaching the heights that it would in years to come. However, listening to the music again, it has stood the test of time well and makes interesting comparison with how the group would coalesce in future recordings.

The music that was deemed visionary at the time may have been a little premature in the flush of excitement that greeted the release, and there are moments where the music sounds tentative and exploratory.

What marks the music out as rather special is the three-way interaction between the musicians. If Holland and DeJohnette had already built a solid rapport, Abercombie seemed to gel with the drummer more readily than bassist Holland which can be heard in the way i which the bassist occasionally appears to be viewing his own composition from the outside looking in.

Holland contributes no less than four of the six titles (three of which make up side 1 of the LP), and each explore different aspects of the way in which the trio can look at operating. The opening ‘Back-Woods Song’ opens with a strong ostinato bass line before the melody is stated by Abercrombie with a rock solid commentary from DeJohnette. Continuing the ostinato, Holland keeps the composition grounded and Abercrombie is left to build his solo within a framework that is confined by the bass line and does so in a most pleasing way making use of his by now familiar arpeggiated runs. DeJohnette’s ever shifting drum patterns keep a firm grasp on proceedings and provide the bridge between bass and guitar.

By contrast, the following number, ‘Waiting’ is a brief interlude for bass and drums with the gentle duet giving way to ‘May Dance’ that provides another interesting contrast. From Holland’s delightful melody, the trio move into a more abstract territory as if not looking to follow the obvious path. The three musicians once again create a dialogue that almost wilfully turns its back on the melodic theme with Abercrombie’s improvisation making frequent breaks for a more lyrical approach to the music but being held back by the unfolding dialogue between bass and drums; and it is not until about a third of the way into the piece that Holland and DeJohnette relent and provide Abercrombie with a more homogeneous support in which to work.

Turning to side B of the album we are presented with another take on the approach of the trio with ‘Unshielded Desire’ composed by DeJohnette and Abercrombie which wades in with more of a jazz rock feel, and a looseness that allows for greater freedom in the improvisations. Abercrombie relishes the situation to cut loose and does so to marvellous effect. ‘Sorcery I’ is credited to DeJohnette as composer and give the trio the freest rein of all the pieces from it abstract opening that leads to a mere hint of a theme before Holand’s bass line lays down some more fixed harmonic and rhythmic guidelines. Holland is the lynch pin again that again keeps the music grounded while Abercrombie’s solo flows fluidly over DeJohnette’s everchanging patterns as the guitarist takes on a solo of real invention.

Sandwiched between these two tracks is Holland’s fourth composition and the only ballad of the set, ‘Jamala’; a lyrical and melodic piece that somehow finds a place among the music despite being at odd with the other tunes on the album.

In a curious scenario that found the band really coming together as a coherent and singular unit nearly twenty years later in two stunning albums recorded in December 1994, this debut recording continues to delight, and serve as reminder of how from humble beginnings a true supergroup emerges.