Standout Track: No. 3, “To D.H.,” a stark landscape mapped out by Jeff Suzda’s alto saxophone and Simone Mancuso’s vibes. Constructed on minimalist, repetitive figures a la Steve Reich, the piece’s improvised sections allow the Silver Spring duo to reveal its shared affinity for colliding poignant lyricism and dissonant abstraction.
Musical Motivation: The “D.H.” of the title is Dave Holland, the progressive jazz bassist whose work has influenced both Sicilian-born Mancuso, 34, who specializes in contemporary classical music, and Chicago native Suzda, 25, who primarily plays straight-ahead jazz. Their collaboration is designed as a means of inclusion for even the most disparate aspects of those musics, and Holland, they say, epitomizes that vision. “He’s one of the main supporters of the style that Simone and I play,” Suzda says. “[‘To D.H.’] doesn’t necessarily sound like Dave, but it was written as a tip of the hat, to say thank you for having an open mind about where the music can go.”
Nexus Instruments: Mancuso and Suzda were artists-in-residence at the Music Center at Strathmore last season, played Blues Alley in July, and are planning three concerts in Italy next year. The duo’s live dates are rare partly because the musicians are both multi-instrumentalists—to put it mildly. “If you’ve seen how much stuff we have, you’ll realize why we don’t gig every night,” says Suzda. “It’s a serious ordeal. This isn’t ‘get out your saxophone and jump onto the bandstand’: There are saxophones, clarinets, vibes, hundreds of percussion instruments. It might take us three hours just to set up.”