Trevor Watts and Veryan Weston clearly have a lot to talk about, and it’s hardly surprising. The veteran saxophonist and pianist/composer only initiated this ongoing dialogue within the last decade, though both are veterans of European jazz and improvised music.
Watts was a founder in the mid-60s of both the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and his own Amalgam, which, true to its name, blended jazz and improv with folk, rock and global influences. In the 80s he explored the relationship between improvisation and explicit rhythm with his long-running Moiré Music Group. Weston, meanwhile, made his name as a multi-disciplinary pianist, composer and and film-scorer.
As a duo, Watts and Weston have previously recorded two albums for Emanem, 6 Dialogues (2001) and 5 More Dialogues (2011). Dialogues in Two Places, the new double CD from Hi4Head Recordings, allows us to eavesdrop twice on this fascinating, free-ranging discourse as it unfolded during a 2011 tour of North America; one set recorded at the Guelph Jazz Festival, Ontario Canada; a second three months earlier at Robinwood Concert House, Toledo USA.
While the Guelph set asumes a classic concert format with a long central performance, the six Ohio pieces, running to a concise average of just 8 minutes, are more distinctly individuated. They are all named after streets in the respective host cities.
Weston plays with exceptional clarity, shaping his music with rare compositional intelligence. Whether probing occasional near-silences with interrogative lucidity or hitting his stride with polemical vigour, the pianist plays with stylistic open-mindedness, occasionally challenging Watts with flashes of post-modal chromaticism or driving boogie. Watts matches him by drawing from a half-century of experience, his tonality sometimes carrying traces of the impassioned clarion cries of Ornette Cleman and Albert Ayler, both acknowledged inspirations, but more often working on dancing melodic patterns unique to his own playing and derived from his Moiré Music explorations of pan-global rhythm.
Watts and Weston trade ideas with sometimes dazzling rapidity, moving from percussive aggression to coolly minimal abstraction without ever compromising the coherence of their discourse, negotiating those transitions with consistency, accuracy and, always direct emotional appeal.