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Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash: Duologue (2014)

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Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash: Duologue How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Saxophone and drum duos aren't as rare as some might believe, but a good percentage of such encounters are challenging, left-leaning affairs. John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's edgy encounters with Rashied Ali
Rashied Ali
Rashied Ali
1935 - 2009
drums
on Interstellar Space (Impulse!, 1974) emboldened many in the so-called avant-garde to marry these instruments time and again over the ensuing decades, yet few centrists seem as interested or willing to explore that territory. That's why a recording such as this, featuring man-for-all-seasons saxophonist Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
b.1961
sax, alto
and paragon-of-class drummer Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
b.1958
drums
, is so special.

Nash, an occasional leader and first-call side man who's worked with everybody from vocalist Betty Carter
Betty Carter
Betty Carter
1930 - 1998
vocalist
to saxophonist Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
Jimmy Heath
b.1926
sax, tenor
to pianist Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
Tommy Flanagan
1930 - 2001
piano
, and Wilson, a versatile saxophonist who's spent time working with drummer Ralph Peterson
Ralph Peterson
Ralph Peterson
b.1962
drums
, pianist Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
, bassist Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride
b.1972
bass
, and a good number of other greats, make for a perfect pair. They've been working together as a duo on-and-off since 2001, but Duologue marks the first time that one of their encounters has been captured for posterity.

The occasional number on this album finds this pair pushing outside the borders of expectations ("Black Gold"), but the majority of the music is in the wheelhouse(s) of both of these artists. Neither man radically alters his modus operandi to suit the setting, but the skill sets and strengths of both men, normally blended within a band setting, are now thrown into sharp relief. Nash's swinging brilliance, quick reflexes, and melodic bent are all plainly evident here, as are Wilson's lyrical side, playfulness, and rhythmic approach to conversation.

While a few Wilson originals show up on the playlist, the duologue carried on between these two is mostly centered on familiar material. They never obscure the melodic content of the music or toy too much with the qualities that have made these standards so popular, but the very nature of the circumstance they find themselves in leads them to broaden the scope of each piece. A sly and sexy take on "The Mooche" that opens on a brief saxophone fantasia and contains Nash's too-infrequent, smile-inducing pitch bends is one such example. Wilson's lyrical daydreaming on the "Bright Mississippi" portion of "Monk Medley Part 2," which leads to Nash's short cymbal-ic introduction to an energetic and rhythmically clipped take on "Four In One," is another.

There's much to admire here when this pair rides high through Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
territory ("Happy House") or pleasantly travels through Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller
1904 - 1943
piano
's world ("Jitterbug Waltz"), but it's also instructional to observe what these men do when they're left to their own devices. Plenty of solo opportunities arise throughout, and each man gets to step out on his own. Wilson delights with the short "Row Twelve," opening in searching fashion and allowing things to congeal into a more direct form of expression, and Nash completely owns Eddie Harris
Eddie Harris
Eddie Harris
1934 - 1994
saxophone
' "Freedom Jazz Dance," bringing melodic and rhythmic brilliance to the fore all at once.

With Duologue, Wilson and Nash make the combination of saxophone and drums seem as logical and complementary as anything. It's a treat to hear them work their magic.

Track Listing: Caravan; The Mooche; RCJG; Monk Medley Part 1 (Ask Me Now, Evidence); Row Twelve; Black Gold; Jitterbug Waltz; Freedom Jazz Dance; Monk Medley Part 2 (Bright Mississippi, Four In One); Happy House; Woody 'N' You.

Personnel: Steve Wilson: saxophone; Lewis Nash: drums.

Record Label: MCG Jazz

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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