"One and one don’t make two. One and one make one," said Pete Townshend. He may as well have been talking about Blaise Siwula (alto and soprano saxophones) and Adam Lane (contrabass), whose instruments intertwine on this intimate, entirely improvised set where the saxophones pop to keep time and the bass growls disconsolately in a role reversal of sound.
Siwula and Lane go on some relatively long walks, but they rarely move faster than a jog, often grounded by melody or slowing down to find a common rhythm. The disc begins with "Opal," where Lane is a steady idle beneath Siwula’s revving and sputtering engine. On "Tandem Rivers," Siwula plays short staccato bursts before he lays out and Lane’s understated bass turns reflective, setting the tone for Siwula’s melancholy reentry. Siwula plays dry, vibratoless soprano on "Crystal Radio," and Lane’s arco bass imitates the soprano in the upper register. As the tune progresses, some vibrato creeps back into Siwula’s horn and he’s playing the Dixieland blues of Sidney Bechet, shockingly lyrical in this context. Tandem Rivers
is a disc where melodies bubble to the surface and evaporate just as quickly, where the tunes organically transform from abstract sound into second-line struts. "Night," the duo’s longest sonic tour, best illustrates their chameleon-like ability for mimicry. Performing more like a team of bass ‘n’ drum rather than bass ‘n’ horn, Siwula’s alto is percussive before it evolves into a source of warm, inviting musicality, and Lane’s bowed strings imitate the alto’s melancholy sound. "Night" defines the duo’s artistic approach. The track’s last two minutes conclude with resonant unity, as both alto and bass imply musical saws in perfect whiny two-part harmony.
The improvisational discourse is full of clever choices, wit and a variety of moods. Siwula and Lane command attention with subtlety and nuance.
This review originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of All About Jazz - New York
Personnel: Adam Lane - bass;
Blaise Siwula - alto and soprano sax.