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Steve Wilson / Lewis Nash Duo:
Saxophone. Drums. That’s it. A fearless confidence, bold daring and a serious sense of playfulness mark Duologue, coming from MCG Jazz on August 5th. Eschewing bass and all chordal ornamentation, saxophonist Steve Wilson and drummer Lewis Nash invert an old maxim, proving that less is sometimes more. Duologue, although the work of only two musicians, is as rich and enveloping as that of any full band. While the sax-drums combo has been tried before, particularly in jazz’s avant-garde, Wilson and Nash never leave melody behind—their dual statements sing and swing, even as the pair jump off into part unknown and unexpected.
Says Nash about the duo format, “It allows what I’m playing to be heard more clearly. I like the fact that some of the more subtle things I do are more audible. Without a bass, you’re able to hear the tonality and tuning of the bass drum a bit better, but conceptually I still play the same as if the bass and piano were present. In the duo setting, Steve and I are able to focus more directly on each other without clutter or distraction. There’s simply more open space available, which allows us to communicate with more clarity. It’s like going on stage and having a conversation. I like that fact that it’s the kind of performance situation that allows us to trust our intuitive and creative senses.”
Adds Wilson, “From the first time I heard Lewis I wanted to play with him, which didn’t happen until a few years after. We hear rhythm and melody much the same, so it’s like two people playing with one brain. Our performances are like flying without a net and we constantly surprise even ourselves, but it’s as natural as breathing. This duo is an entity, not a novelty or diversion, and those who have heard us really get that.”
Duologue’s 11 tracks are well chosen to illustrate the range Wilson and Nash are capable of achieving. Opening with two timeless Ellington classics—“Caravan” and “The Mooche”—and venturing as far afield as Ornette Coleman’s “Happy House,” the two virtuosos achieve a rare connection throughout, one that listeners will easily embrace along with them. Two different medleys of Monk tunes, Eddie Harris’ soulful “Freedom Jazz Dance,” Fats Waller’s iconic “Jitterbug Waltz” and a no-holds-barred closer of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody ’N’ You.” These classics are joined by three strong Wilson originals that feel right at home within such lofty company. “Black Gold ,” Wilson’s tribute to Pittsburgh’s cultural heritage and iconic sports teams, the bluesy “RCJG, paying homage to jazz masters Ron Carter and Jimmy Giuffre, and Wilson’s solo, “Row Twelve.” The two virtuosos achieve a rare connection throughout this recording, one that listeners will easily embrace along with them.
Wilson and Nash both are leaders of their own ensembles as well as having performed with some of the most celebrated artists in jazz, including Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Dave Holland, Joe Lovano, Mulgrew Miller, Tommy Flanagan, Lionel Hampton, Betty Carter, Sonny Rollins, Ron Carter, Maria Schneider, Christian McBride, Blue Note 7 and many others. And since 2001, when they first performed together as a duo, Wilson and Nash have developed a special musical relationship that approaches the telepathic. Their performances explore jazz standards while creating a fresh new repertoire, and offer an intimate peek into the creative process. Nash has said that he and Wilson use familiar songs to give listeners a chance to observe their process and directly experience “the ways we can deconstruct that material,” creating “a casual, living-room kind of experience.” Duologue, as its play-on-words title implies, is a conversation between two old friends.