Mark Allaway and Nick Tomalin – Brew Time(Digital download and streaming services. Review by Julian Maynard-Smith)
A musical conversation can’t get more intimate than a duet, and there’s something special about piano and that most vocal of instruments, the saxophone. Take the heartbreaking end-of-life performances of Stan Getz with Kenny Barron on People Time; and of Art Pepper with George Cables on Tête-à-Tête and Goin’ Home (and, for that matter, Cables with Frank Morgan on Double Image). Pepper said that Cables was his favourite pianist and called him ‘Mr Beautiful’ and it’s easy to hear why – they were so relaxed with each other that we sense we’re overhearing a conversation between best friends.
There’s a similar feeling of relaxed understanding between alto saxophonist Mark Allaway and pianist Nick Tomalin, who’ve been playing together for over twenty years – and with Brew Time they’re on their third outing as a duo after Naming Clouds (2015) and Storyline (2018). On alto saxophone, Allaway has a light tone and lyrical phrasing similar to Lee Konitz (speaking of whom, check out Konitz with pianist Michel Petrucciani on the album Toot Sweet). In Tomalin, Allaway has found his own ‘Mr Beautiful’ because even on more up-tempo tunes such as the standard Too Close for Comfort everything sounds, well, close and comfortable.
The only other standard is a lovely version of Kenny Drew’s Ballade. It’s perhaps not surprising that the set comprises mainly originals, after discovering that Allaway (who started his career with Itchy Fingers) has written scores for film and television, and Tomalin is a composer and educator. Their compositions range from the Latin feel of the title track Brew Time to the Mingus-inspired (and anagrammatic) waltz Musing, to Brown Sauce Blues on which Allaway switches to bass clarinet.
The album’s cover image has a mug of tea on top of a crossword – and if you’re sticking the kettle on for a tea break, or otherwise want to hear a relaxing set of sensitively played originals and standards, Brew Time is an ideal companion.
LINKS: Brew Time is available from Mark Allaway’s HearnowNick Tomalin has recorded a podcast about Kenny Drew