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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews - Duets! Steve Wilson, Lewis Nash

Long-Ass Car Ride Reviews: I take long-ass car rides, I listen to albums, I let you know if they are worthwhile.

Photo (C) John Abbott
To be honest - duo albums are not usually go-to albums for me. Often there is pomposity and heaviness or just a barrenness that can't be overcome by talent. Coincidence had me grab these 2 duet albums for a driving weekend. Boy! was I ever pleased that both were so awesome. Fun & musicality prevail for both.

Superb musicians having quality fun!
Steve Wilson|Lewis Nash - "Duologue" (2013) 8.75/10
Steve Wilson - saxes; Lewis Nash - drums

In a word - delightful

Both the title and the artwork had me a bit worried, but this is the best album I've heard in a long while, period. It is simply delightful all the way through. There is never a moment where you miss a fuller rhythm section or harmonic bedding. A wonderful balance of lightheartedness and intrigue pervades; the only real serious moments, and they are excellent, are for the Steve Wilson originals - "Black Gold" being particularly fine with funky, quirky hooks and Wilson's brilliant soprano chops. Other highlights include lightly driving alto and drums on a bright and splendid "Jitterbug Waltz". Thelonious Monk's angular approach adapts so well to the sparsity - both medleys thrill and entice. A solo drums version of "Freedom Jazz Dance"? Genius! Lewis Nash demonstrates the sensitivity that makes him one of the best drummers on the planet today, making everything sound easy and fun. Steve Wilson's tone on both horns has beautiful appeal - his abundant flow of ideas draw you in immediately on the two opening Ellington selections. Ornette Coleman's "Happy House" was a neat and fitting choice. Then there's the sound - simply stunning (kudos, Jay Dudt); Nash's drums sound so darn good! If you buy one album in this year's set of reviews - make it this one. Very satisfying!

two jazz giants mesh!

Fred Hersch and Julian Lage - "Free Flying" (2013) 8.25/10

Fred Hersch - piano; Julian Lage - guitar

In a word - lightness

There is of course more headiness involved with this duo than the above album, but surprisingly "Free Flying" is also mostly a lighthearted and occasionally whimsical affair. The empathy displayed in the opening "Song Without Words #4: Duet" is astonishing; especially considering these two only met in 2011. The sound at the club Kitano is so right for the timbre presented; I remember being surprised to hear applause at the end of this one - not at all sounding like a 'live' album. "Down Home (for Bill Frissell)" is appropriately bluesy/gospelly, but much more uplifting and good-spirited than anything Frissell has put out! All of the Fred Hersch dedicated originals are slyly fitting. "Free Flying" is an exceptional work; playful, puckish and memorable - all the while the tightness of Hersch & Lage is jaw-dropping. The audience is particularly dazzled by this one and the similarly clever, bluesy "Stealthiness". "Gravity's Pull" and a heartfelt but airborn "Beatrice" (Sam River's haunting classic) are the best cuts; there is just so much improvisatory talent here, as well as very astute comping behind one another. The closing "Monk's Dream" also wows. Hopefully these two will continue to record together - this is nearly perfect modern jazz.

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