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Local tenor sax man Ian Tordella teamed up with musician Gerard Nolan Thursday night at 98 Bottles for a concert billed as Twin Tenors, evoking a time in jazz history ('50s & '60s), when such pairings were commonplace.

There is something magical about that combination--I have fond memories of albums by Dexter Gordon/Wardell Grey and Johnny Griffin/ Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis that still make me smile.

Likewise, Tordella and Nolan instantly struck that chord when they began the furiously swinging reading of "Voyage." Nolan hit the ground running with a big, brawny sound, juggling sequences over the joyous time-keeping of Rob Thorsen's bass while young drum phenomenon Fernando Gomez kept the fires stoked. Suddenly the dynamics drew down for Tordella's emergence--marked by a lighter, spun-honey tone and more elliptical phrasing. Pianist Danny Green followed, mixing winding melodic strikes with swaths of layered chords.

Thorsen began "Short Story," with a rubbery ostinato--linking with Gomez on a back-beat driven funk bed that saw Tordella surface with warm spirals that snuck into the altissimo register without screaming--the saxophonist has a way of doing that that's very appealing. Green signed a swing proposition as the bass moved into a propulsive "2" feel, and it was only the pianist's inexorable drive into a more complex dynamic that brought the "4" back into action.

Nolan busted out his alto clarinet for a remarkable duet with Thorsen on "Alone Together." As the reedman stirred chocolate, undulating lines, Thorsen took it out with fat blankets of simmering glissandi that morphed into bluesy walking--sounding like a meeting of William Parker and Ray Brown in the process. Out of nowhere, the two locked into a pulse and began wrapping lines around each other in a double-helix like two snakes in mating season.

Nolan's modal swinger "Solipsism," featured a vintage groove straight out of the Blue Note era--and after the head, the tenor man locked horns with Gomez in a fierce duet that brought explosive percussive accents and muscled arpeggios as the saxophonist got his 'Trane on, so to speak.

This concert represented a "throwback" to the 1960's, for sure, but it was all done so well--it was impossible not to enjoy the ride. Another facet of Tordella's musicianship was revealed, and this Nolan cat can really tear it up.

Photo by Darci Fontenot

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