Two – Out
F W M Records
Roger Mannins is a great saxophonist – I’ve enjoyed his work in a variety of settings and, it’s possible, I first noticed him through the association with Mike Nock. Though I know I’ve heard Manins play in almost every conceivable jazz line-up from soloist to part of a big – big – band and several different small combos. I’ve heard Nock in so many different configurations too – as bandleader, as composer sitting next to Michael Houstoun and, seemingly, egging him on as Houstoun worked through a set of lovely-little-surprise piano-bursts that Nock might have made in the wee small hours or when the sun was just starting to peek through into the day.
In short, I’ll check these guys out wherever and whenever – and whatever they’re doing. It usually involves great music, great taste, great playing. So it is here with a duo album, just the two of them and their respective instruments ‘in conversation’ – recorded in a single day, and then shelved for a few months, reassessed, shaped, trimmed and put out into the world.
Here the duo work together through a set of standards, lovely pieces that allow them both ample speaking room. Can’t We Be Friends has urgent piano chording from Nock and a flurry of notes from Manins, ever capable of finding the gap. A version of Tennessee Waltz allows Manins a breathy, soft, slow intro – he’s essentially replacing those family guitar lines with his horn, and though Nock gets to gently tinkle and cascade behind he’s the rhythm of the piece, even when Manins drops out to allow Nock’s solo exploration.
It’s lovely easy-afternoon music for the most part, the version of I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart has me thinking of Art Pepper and Chet Baker and by the time we get to Sweet and Lovely the record has, largely, defined itself by those two qualities.
Most of this is, apparently, first takes. In just four hours, in Verbrugghen Hall at Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music at the start of last year this meeting of the minds occurred. A meeting of the souls too – of course. They had more than enough for an album in the time that it might take anyone else to get one decent track down. They whittled it back to an hour of music, 11 warm and tender standards from the songbooks we know and love (Waller, Gershwin, Strayhorn, Ellington, Rodgers & Hart). If you’ve ever heard either of these players, if you’ve ever loved any jazz, if you’ve ever wanted a gorgeous set of tunes that allows for individual expression – the great playing of great soloists who know when to shine and just as importantly when to sit back and let the song work its magic then Two – Out is the one. You need to hear this. It’s lovely.