Two Colors (Rhinoceruss, 2004), the first release from saxophonist Russ Nolan as a leader, impressed by virtue of an exquisite partnership with pianist Sam Barsh and the leader's convincing command of both tenor and soprano saxophones. The saxophonist's sophomore effort, With You in Mind, reprises his traditional approach in the context of pianist Kenny Werner's superb piano trio. Nolan's affinity for pianists is again readily apparent on a varied musical program that includes paeans to Trane, Monk and drummer Billy Kilson.
Not your run-of-the-mill tenor player who leans on speed or a big round tone to impress, Nolan's uniqueness lies in his facility for delicately presenting the upper registers of his instrument, much in evidence on "With You in Mind." It is a style that, save for cuts like an intriguing reworking of Trane's "Naima" and a boppish take on the NYC subway entitled "Stand Clear of the Closing Doors," is more akin to that of a vocalist who uses phrasing and diction to achieve desired moods. This is most apparent on songs where the trio provides a more open soundstage, like the pensive title cut and medium tempo closer "By The Way."
Conversely, Nolan's phrasing can also engage Werner in wonderfully charming conversation. Such is the case as piano dances divinely with soprano on what is only a somewhat "Disheveled Waltz." Bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Ari Hoenig provide some quirky rhythms that add authenticity to the Monk tribute "Diatonicus," spice up the opening "Kilson's Groove" and interject bop and ballad story lines into "Tales From the Head."
While second efforts can sometimes suffer from a dearth of originality, Nolan effectively explores new ground without sacrificing his strengths.
Track Listing: Kilson's Groove; Stand Clear of the Closing Doors; Disheveled Waltz; With You in Mind; Tales from the Head; Waiting; Diatonicus; Naima; By the Way.
Personnel: Russ Nolan: tenor and soprano saxophones; Kenny Werner: piano; Johannes Weidenmueller: bass; Ari Hoenig: drums.
Why do I love jazz? Well, depending on what you mean by jazz, I can send an answer in any number of directions. Briefly, I was exposed to this crazy music as a little boy, my dad good friends with the local music store, where he bought sheet music to play from his baby grand
Why do I love jazz? Well, depending on what you mean by jazz, I can send an answer in any number of directions. Briefly, I was exposed to this crazy music as a little boy, my dad good friends with the local music store, where he bought sheet music to play from his baby grand. Their massive record collection, my parents taking me to concerts and clubs (only one of five kids to do so), the Magnavox furniture stereo/radio ... it all added up. It was complex, emotional music. And it had rhythm! I drummed and followed the music through the '60s even as I enjoyed the new musics of my generation.
Along with side-trips to other musicians and music, it's been one hell of a pony ride ever since.