Nick Sanders & Logan Strosahl: Janus

By DAN MCCLENAGHAN
September 20, 2016
Pianist Nick Sanders and saxophonist Logan Strosahl have named their duet outing Janus. The Janus of the Roman Empire era was a God with two faces, a God of time, with one gaze directed forward, the other backward in time. 

Sanders and Strosahl began playing in the duo format a decade ago, wood-shedding in the dorms at Boston’s New England Conservatory, where they were both students. They revisit those sessions, in a sense, a wide-ranging, Janus-ian, forward/backward exploration of their dynamic, modernistic, twenty-first century originals, versus the 18th century Baroque sounds of Francois Couperin, the 14th century music of Guillaume de Machaut, and, visiting some twentieth century Standards, tunes from Thelonious Monk (“Thelonious”) and Hoagy Carmichael (“Stardust”). 

Improvisation is the key. Sanders and Strosahl are fluid improvisors, their individual ideas melting into each other with a telepathic grace, whether it’s on the prickly opener, the Sanders-penned “Sigma,” or Stosahl’s dignified “Allemande,” or the brash, playful take on “Thelonious.” 

Strosahl’s “Mazuka” shifts from mysterious to jaunty. Olivier Messiaen’s “Selections From Vingt Regards Sur L’Enfant—Jesus” goes deep into a dark sense of wonder, with Strosahl lamenting inside Sanders’ repetition of an ominous, for-whom-the-bell-tolls piano note. The title tune, written by Strosahl, bounces with a quirky elan. Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” has a smoky bar room feeling—a bar room that’s emptying out as closing hour approaches. 

A superb recording, remarkable for its focus and its journey through a long chronology of disparate source material.
Track Listing: Sigma; Allemande; Thelonious; Be-Bop Tune; Rose, Liz, Printemps, Verdure; Mazurka; Old Folks; Selections From Vingt Regards Sur L’Enfant–Jesus; Janus; Stardust; Les Amusmens.

Personnel: Nick Sanders: piano; Logan Strosahl: alto and tenor saxophones.

Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records