FWM Records 005
Reviewed by Gavin Franklin, March 3rd, 2016
Two of the finest jazzmen from the ‘Shaky Isles’ play jazz interpretations of popular tunes from the first half of the twentieth century. It is work whose beauty rivals that of the Tony Bennett/Bill Charlap award-winner from last year.
This is an album made from recordings undertaken following an informal session of ‘jamming’ between two musical acquaintances. Not that the recordings were done in someone’s parlour. On the contrary, Verbrugghen Hall at Sydney Conservatorium was chosen as the venue. The presence of a Fazioli grand piano and the beauty of the hall’s acoustic properties made it ideal for the sensitive recording of an album such as this. Nock’s work on piano, filled as it is with subtle chord alterations, deserves to be heard in such an environment and Manins’ gorgeous sound on tenor saxophone is captured in its full loveliness.
Both participants originate from New Zealand but have enjoyed international careers in various styles ranging from standards to the avant-garde. The contents of this CD are from the former end of the spectrum and, in the manner of the post-modern ‘new standard’, the songs are drawn from several different music styles, all originating in the first half of the twentieth century. Can’t We Be Friends first appeared in a 1929 show and Falling in Love With Love was written in 1938. Tennessee Waltz began as a country song in 1946 and Golden Earrings was made famous in the late 1940s by singer Peggy Lee; its melody is said to have been an old gypsy tune. All of these classic tracks are mingled with tunes such as Thomas Waller’s Black and Blue (1929), Ellington/Strayhorn’s I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (1938) and Isfahan (1967).The remaining tunes are similarly dated, so the choice of songs seems to have been governed by their appeal to the artists involved and their popularity with audiences over the years.
In this sense, Two-Out might be simply regarded as an album of popular standards that will pander to the tastes of a broad listening audience. To dismiss it so lightly would be to miss the individual structural and ‘jazz’ interpretive work that both these artists bring to the repertory. Every track is interpreted through the combined experiences of Nock and Manins, both of which are extensive and varied. The resulting performances retain the original simplicity of the melodies, enhanced by the well-informed taste of the protagonists.
If one of the tunes doesn’t appeal due to earlier experiences with it that colour your response, then you should listen to the beauty of the sound produced by superb instruments played by two of the best from this part of the globe. They might change your opinion.