Alto saxophonist Steve Coleman and bassist Dave Holland worked regularly throughout the 1980s and into the '90s, mainly in Holland's quintet and trio, where Coleman's sleek sense of line and unforced attack was a fine complement to Holland's lustrous tone and propulsiveness. This blend is the centerpiece of Phase Space, an early '91 duo program, recorded just weeks after Holland participated in Coleman's Black Science sessions.
The program is wide-ranging: four Coleman compositions; two by Holland; and three standards-Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha," Mal Waldron's "Straight Ahead," and Bunky Green's "Little Girl I'll Miss You." Coleman's contributions alone are impressively varied, each one incorporating fundamentals of blues, swing, and lyricism into supple, yet quirky structures. Yet, add in Holland's distinctive pieces (longtime fans will dig this version of "See Saw," which first appeared on Conference of the Birds), and the duo's expansive takes on the Parker and Green tunes (the Waldron receives a reading apropos to its title), and the result is a very eclectic program.
Yet, the lasting impression of Phase Space is based on Coleman and Holland's effortless sense of drive, which seems always to be approaching a simmer, and the facility with which they trade lead and support roles, which often entails pungent exchanges during their transits through an amorphic middle ground. It is the compatibility of their voices that provides an unwavering focus to the music, making Phase Space a very satisfying album.