STEVE WILSON & LEWIS NASH
North Pointe Cultural Arts Center
December 3, 2005
by Jeff Waggoner
The tight lines of saxophonist Steve Wilson and Lewis Nash's drum orchestration melded into a striking jazz concert on December 3 at North Pointe Cultural Center in Kinderhook.
The two concocted a blend of elegance and intricacy. Wilson, known primarily for being an alto saxophonist, showed that he is a master at soprano - able to produce a lean, focused sounds that cut through Nash's percussive complexities.
The soprano can be a deadly tool in the wrong hands - it's notoriously hard to play in pitch and its sometimes keening, nasal screech can send an audience to the exits. But Wilson has a warm, open sound on soprano. Played right - as Wilson did it - the small sax produces a pure, ethereal sound that makes all the effort worth it
Meanwhile, Nash demonstrated why he is such a widely heralded drummer on the jazz scene. In the pre-concert discussion, Wilson said Nash played the drums like a piano, making it into much more than a means to keep time. Nash is a melody maker, who uses all the potential of the drum set - beating it with brushes, mallets, sticks and hands.
Sometimes their sounds mixed. Sometimes they clicked like two gears, and other times the two played in separate dimensions, avoiding colliding, making it all work. Nash is too complex to be shared with other musicians and Wilson is like a fine single malt Scotch. You want his sound neat. Somehow the duo has figured not only how to play with each other - but to highlight each other's strengths. Listen to Wilson and you hear the beauty of the saxophone sound. Listen to Nash and you hear the potential of the drum set.
They demonstrated those ideas in an eight song set that was played in a very intimate context. The players were off the stage. The audience arrayed in a semi-circle around them. Producer Tom Bellino wanted the pre-concert discussion to continue into the concert, so he put the musicians in among the encircling audience, and asked them to take questions between songs.
In an echo of the Roswell Rudd/Layfayette Harris concert of November, Wilson/Nash also played Fats Waller and Theloneous Monk and they added songs by Duke Ellington, Frank Foster and Dizzy Gillespie. Wilson and Nash are contemporary musicians, but they also appreciate the need to create resonance and meaning - and nothing much resonates among jazz fans as much as the artitst to whom they played tribute.
It perhaps isn't fair to judge a performer for something other than his or her skills and talents, but Wilson/Nash reached their audience in more than musical ways. They did it through their grace, generosity and intelligence. Add another big success to the North Pointe Cultural Arts Center/Hudson Valley Friends of Jazz scorecard.
Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Metroland, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times. He lives in Nassau, is a student of jazz saxophone and guitar and can be frequently found at jazz, blues and folk concerts.