Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

3

Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights

David A. Orthmann By

Sign in to view read count
Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson
Hockaday/Jones Barn
JazzNights
Hopewell, NJ
April 9, 2017

Two tacit, entwined propositions animated a performance by Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights, a long running concert series in the Princeton, NJ area curated by Mary Wisnovsky and Maitland Jones. The first is that it's possible for the compositions of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Billy Strayhorn, and Denzil Best to coexist in a cohesive, artistically satisfying fashion. (Wilson's and Nash's superb 2014 recording, Duologue on MCG Jazz, extended their interpretative reach to include music by Ornette Coleman, Eddie Harris, as well as three of Wilson's compositions.) Throughout a ninety minute set in the comfortable confines of the Hockaday/Jones Barn, Nash and Wilson proved that the juxtaposition of material consigned to different eras of jazz history, oftentimes the province of ad hoc ensembles and academically tinged projects, can thrive as present-centered activity rather than primarily a celebration of the past.

The second, closely related proposition is that a drummer and a saxophonist are capable of illuminating all of this music without the help of additional instrumentation—something that Nash and Wilson have been doing since 2001—by playing in living, breathing ways that aren't dwarfed by the accomplishments of their iconic predecessors. In contrast to the abundance of saxophone and drum segments that are part of the contemporary performance landscape—sometimes all friction, heat, and intensity—Wilson and Nash weren't butting heads and charging down well-trodden pathways; rather, they made accessible, audience friendly music that often sounded like a witty conversation between two old friends.

"Wrong Is right," Thelonious Monk's oft quoted line regarding the limitations of hewing to conventional thought and practices, was a good thing to keep in mind during the course of Nash's and Wilson's performance. On the one hand, they were operating within the wide confines of the jazz mainstream; on the other, rules were routinely bent, playfully subverted or broken. With the exception of one solo performance apiece—Wilson's interpretation of Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and Nash's take on Best's "Move"—the music wasn't about them as individuals; rather, it emphasized their fearlessness and absolute trust in one another. An up-tempo version of Gillespie's "Woody 'N' You" was one of many examples of a near telepathic connection in which they completed each other's phrases. At the end of Wilson's improvised choruses during Ellington's and Tizol's "Caravan," he routinely left ample space for Nash's comments.

In managing the business of simultaneously accompanying and interacting with Wilson, Nash moved around bits of vocabulary in a matter of seconds. Though everything was executed on the fly, you could hear the results of a mind at work, as he briefly established a tangible thought or groove and then, without hesitation, moved on without any regard for propriety. Frequent changes in implements—sticks, brushes (including the handles), mallets, hands, and fingernails—weren't flashy or impatient; rather, they were but one aspect of his ongoing conversation with Wilson. During "Jitterbug Waltz," Nash imitated a portion of Waller's melody with brush handles on the cymbals, played straight time, and at one point answered Wilson with an efficient sweep of the brush across the drum head. He was also a master at shifting the feel of the music without disrupting the flow. For instance, during a portion of Ellington's "The Mooche," Nash's stomping swing beat underpinned Wilson's soprano sax. When he suddenly took the steady bass drum out of the mix for a time the music briefly took on another, slightly different character, before he put it back into place.

Wilson's vocabulary was every bit as impressive as Nash's; however, he frequently played in ways that disguised his proficiency in favor of maximizing his rapport with the drummer and constructing coherent improvisations that contained speech-like patterns. "The Mooche" was the first of several instances in which he forged a slippery kind of order out of a series of tart, clipped phrases. Initially leaving a lot of open space that was filled by Nash's brushes, a turn on "Jitterbug Waltz" gradually became more animated when Wilson threw down a number of blues drenched utterances. During a particularly heated portion of "Woody 'N' You," several jagged, intermittent blasts were eventually converted into precise, orderly phrases.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory Live Reviews We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory
by Josef Woodard
Published: December 16, 2017
Read We Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews We Jazz Festival 2017
by Anthony Shaw
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017 Live Reviews Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Jazztopad Festival 2017 Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Green Man 2017" Live Reviews Green Man 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: November 11, 2017
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at Jazz Standard
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 9, 2017
Read "Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival 2017
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "Match&Fuse Dublin 2017" Live Reviews Match&Fuse Dublin 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 24, 2017
Read "Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic" Live Reviews Pat Metheny at Cologne Philharmonic
by Phillip Woolever
Published: November 8, 2017
Read "Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom" Live Reviews Foundation of Funk at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
by Geoff Anderson
Published: February 20, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!