WBGO Radar

Steve Wilson & Lewis Nash: Duologue

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Steve Wilson and Lewis Nash have achieved significant stature on stage and in studio with some of the greatest names in jazz, including Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Tommy Flanagan, Lionel Hampton, Sonny Rollins, Betty Carter, Christian McBride,  Mulgrew Miller and more. Their spirit and skills qualify them to do anything they please.

Saxophone. Drums. That's it. A fearless confidence captured at The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild outside Pittsburgh, "Duologue" shows just how musical it can be when one looks to the other and nods, "just you, just me."

Says Nash about the duo format, "It allows what I'm playing to be heard more clearly. Steve and I are able to focus more directly on each other." Adds Wilson, "Our performances are like flying without a net, but it's as natural as breathing."

Wilson & Nash jump right into it with Juan Tizol's "Caravan." This two-seater version shows a musical connection which started in 2001, and remains exploring, but always anchored in the melody.

Ellington's "The Mooche" draws the listener into the setting of what two uniquely talented musical minds can do. In her liner notes, Leslie Pintchik calls it eavesdropping on a rich, continuous yet non-sequitur-free conversation between two superb musicians.

There are two "Monk Medleys" which show the playfulness, humor and genius of Thelonious and these two master improvisers.

There are three Wilson originals, including "Black Gold," his tribute to all things artistic and athletic in Pittsburgh, where Wilson and Nash mine the field, exploring with an aggressive hold on what one throws the other's way.

There's an adventuresome dance on Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" where you get the sense of what drum melody can feel like, Nash singing around Wilson's playful notations.

You've never heard Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance" like this, a solo outing from the drummer that never misses a step.

Ornette Coleman's "Happy House" takes on a call and response attitude when expressed by two musicians of this caliber. Wilson's no-net Ornette would make any jazzer's house smile.

"Woody 'N' You," a Dizzy Gillespie classic, is a strong reminder why these two have decided to share their ideas with us. It works, on all levels.

"Duologue" comes out from MCG Jazz on August 5th. Wilson and Nash have selected performance dates coming up, including The Jazz Gallery in November.

   - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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