When Stan Kenton was asked where jazz was going next, he said, “Tomorrow night we’ll be in Detroit.” It is in the nature of creative music that the question cannot be answered. Still, it would be less than human for someone who takes jazzor any important musicseriously, not to speculate. It is impossible to know whether the present generation of musicians in their teens and twenties includes people who will advance the evolution of jazz into an important new phase. There are certainly enough talented musicians in that age group to make tracking their progress intensely interesting and, often, rewarding. Pianist Nick Sanders and alto saxophonist Logan Strosahl are players who fit that bill.
Twice in the past few months, Rifftides has posted performances from the collection of videos on Sanders’ and Strosahl’s YouTube channel. The pair have affinity for Charlie Parker, Herbie Nichols, Billy Strayhorn and Thelonious Monk, as well as for Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and others who contributed classics to the Great American Songbook. Next in this seriesif it turns out to be a seriesis a Monk composition that gave the composer and his colleagues a bit of trouble when he first recorded it in 1959. It’s called “Played Twice,” a sixteen-bar piece that may have seemed deceptively simple on paper.
The late producer Orrin Keepnews, who produced Monk’s work for Riverside Records, recalled that it took half a day and three takes in the studio until Monk was satisfied. Before we hear young Sanders’s and Strosahl’s recent performance of “Played Twice,” it can be instructive to listen to the take that Monk approved on that June day in 1959. The composer is at the piano, with Thad Jones, cornet; tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse in his first recording with Monk; Sam Jones, bass; and Arthur Taylor, drums. They play it rather deliberately here, which gives us an opportunity to absorb the tune’s form and to at least sense its harmonic complexity.
All three takes of “Played Twice” are on the OJC reissue of this Monk album, which it seems to me has never received the attention it deserves, not only because it is Rouse’s recorded debut with Monk but also because of Thad Jones’s typically warm and inventive soloing and the bass-drum partnership of Sam Jones and Art Taylor.
Strosahl and Sanders meet the challenge of “Played Twice” on at least three levels: they play it fast, they depend on one another’s time sense for rhythmic consistencyno bassist, no drummer, no rhythm guitarand they incorporate a section of what we might assume to be free playing, except that they meticulously observe the form of the song and come out of the look-Ma-no-hands segment right on the nose, into a near-flawless final chorus.
Sanders is from New Orleans. Strosahl is from Seattle. They collaborate in Brooklyn, where so many musicians and other artists have gone to flee Manhattan’s insupportably high rents. Their YouTube channel has more than two dozen videos in which they play with enthusiasm and conciseness.