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Disc review: Steve Wilson and Lewis Nash, ‘Duologue’

I love this disc. It’s a huge surprise. You’d be unlikely to imagine that a whole disc of a saxophone/drum duet would be as appealing and consistently creative as this one turns out to be. Nor, just looking at the two musicians who comprise the duo, would you think they’d be as charismatic together as they wind up being.

The more important of the two here, by far, is drummer Lewis Nash, who is usually an ultra-reliable drummer for a trio, quartet, quintet or big band. What he has to do here is fill up an enormous amount of sonic space with rhythms, fills and a steady outpouring of drum melody. He is such an inventive master of playing with brushes that he is almost an entirely different musician here than the drummer we’ve been hearing all these decades.

Steve Wilson always has been a capable player on alto and soprano but having so much space to fill and having so stimulating a partner brings out capabilities in Wilson I never knew he had. Wilson and Nash have been doing this together since 2001.

On this set recorded in March 2013, Wilson says it’s “like flying without a net … and we constantly surprise ourselves.” They can’t help but surprise everyone else, too, even sophisticated jazz listeners – with, for instance, a witty and singular version of Thelonious Monk’s gorgeous ballad “Ask Me Know,” an almost-abstract version of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” where Nash plays as much commentary on Wilson as rhythm. Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” has, with such spare and demanding instrumentation, as much bracing “freedom” as Harris’ tune has always promised but has seldom achieved in performance outside of Miles Davis’ version.


Steve Wilson, Lewis Nash Duo

“Duologue” (Manchester Craftsman’s Guild)

4 stars

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