When saxophonist Mark Nodwell lays down his horn and picks up a pencil, his compositions explode outward. This eruption of ideas takes in numerous styles and approaches, all pleasing to the ear without being reconcilable to one another.
The Canadian-born composer was first revealed on (co)incidents (Songlines, 1999) leading Eyvind Kang, Francois Houle, and Khabu Doug Young through four lengthy composed pieces of intricate jazz. On this disc he keeps the guitarist Young and adds a Colorado contingent of trumpeter Ron Miles and pianist Art Lande.
On Nemesis he balances a pair of lengthy pieces, the title track and “Aura” played by the entire quintet, against shorter tracks and duos. His talents for grand statements are revealed in the lengthier pieces, with their rhythmic changes and varying approaches. He likes Eastern themes, falling into the familiar (to him) from the noisy-scratchy beginning of "Flight Of The Pterodactyl."
His perfect partner for these creations is guitarist Khabu Doug Young, who shows an aptitude for both shredding guitar and rhythmic harmonies. His ability to morph into Nodwell’s conceptions presents this seemingly disparate music as one. Together they unfurl the beautiful with the "ugly." The rhythm section is Art Lande and the two "been-there-done-that" players drummer Tom Rainey and bassist Drew Gress who cut their teeth with the likes of Tim Berne, Andy Laster, Brad Shepik, Dave Douglas, and Fred Hersch.
Nodwell’s addition of Denver’s gift to modern jazz, trumpeter Ron Miles, makes for good measure. His clear tone works well as a response to Young’s guitar. Miles plays the straight man to his skittish romps and running partner to his speed work. The trumpeter has a talent for opting for plain speech and simple swing. He treats us to new-thing bebop lines on “Fleet” and lamentable notes on the trumpet/guitar duo “Dreamtime (epilogue).”
Art Lande’s duo with drummer Tom Rainey (could this have been composed?) reminds me of a Han Bennink/Misha Mengelberg encounter. The mix, tap, swirl, pound, around and around.
There seems to be five separate albums of music recorded here. Perhaps these are simply five of the many directions from which this band can choose when they take the stage on any given night.
Personnel: Ron Miles - Trumpet; Khabu Doug Young - Electric Guitar; Art Lande - Piano; Drew Gress - Bass;
Tom Rainey - Drums; Mark Nodwell - Composer.