Steve Nelson Trio A Common Language (Daybreak 2024)


Doing a Double Nelson.

Steve Nelson Trio - A Common Language


Steve Nelson (vibraphone), Joris Teepe (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)


on October 23, 2023 at De Smederij, Zeist


as Daybreak 802/3 in 2024

Track listing

Bag’s Groove
Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise
Body And Soul
I Hear A Rhapsody
My Shining Hour
I Thought About You
Star Eyes
Oh, Lady Be Good
Embraceable You
Well, You Needn’t
Up Jumped Spring
Lover Man
I Remember April
Satin Doll

“There’s no telling what we’ll play in the second set,” bystanders overheard bassist Joris Teepe say at the CD-release concert of A Common Language by the Steve Nelson Trio at De Pletterij in Haarlem on April 1. Among others, it turned out, they played a lush version of ‘Round Midnight and a gritty jump blues take on Frankie And Johnny, both made up on the spot and not presented on the American vibraphonist’s first album on the Daybreak imprint of Timeless Records.

Steve Nelson, preeminent 69-year-old vibraphonist and past associate of Dave Holland and Mulgrew Miller, is an invitee of ‘Dutch New Yorker’ Teepe, who as artistic advisor of the Prins Claus Conservatory of Groningen regularly brings his American connections to his home country. The trio is completed by veteran drummer Eric Ineke, pinnacle of Dutch jazz that played with a who’s who in jazz from Dexter Gordon to Jimmy Raney and Eric Alexander to Tineke Postma.

On stage, the quiet and reserved Nelson says: “I like to play with everybody, young and old, but with these guys… (sighs). They are so experienced and know exactly what they are doing.” And then some. It is quite a team, full of interaction and balanced energy. Especially from playing a bit more together the last few years than in the past, the Teepe/Ineke tandem has become particularly tight-knit and flexible, Teepe’s way of making the music breathe quite phenomenal and Ineke’s succinct questioning-and-answering typically steady, dynamic and vivid.

All this is in evidence on the appropriately titled 2CD-set A Common Language. Fifteen standards, no less, and Nelson must have felt like a kid in a candy store, relishing the various melodies and changes of iconic tunes, and like a counterfeit passenger on a magic carpet, enjoying the ride with his top-rate colleagues from the Low-Lands. Whether it’s Bag’s Groove of Nelson’s iconic precursor Milt Jackson, De Paul/Raye’s Star Eyes, two standard ballads Embraceable You and Lover Man, or swing anthem Oh, Lady Be Good, Nelson is on a constantly creative level, pouring out vivacious and flowing lines like a tap dancer that’s swinging in the rainy streets of Storyville.

This set, indeed, is a city of versatile stories. Relentless trio drive marks Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise, while I Thought About You moves ever-so-slowly in a good groove, a version that is kickstarted by a gorgeous introduction on the vibraphone and finds Nelson in a pensive mood, as it were, in deep thought like Socrates on a rock on the Olympus. The slapping rockabilly bass of Teepe spurs on Monk’s Well, You Needn’t, which also includes one of Teepe’s finest solo spots.

It may not be, as stated in the liner notes, the first-ever album of vibraphone, bass and drums – rare as it is, at least there’s Khan Jamal’s 1986 Steeplechase album The Traveler that has explored this territory before. But it is an undeniable truth, as Ria Wigt from Timeless Records pointed out on stage at De Pletterij, that A Common Language is one of the best career efforts of the number one vibes player of his generation, with more than a little help from his exceptional Dutch friends.

Steve Nelson Trio