In Roman mythology, Janus is a god of two faces, one that looks forward and the other backward. That this particular figure stands as the title of pianist Nick Sanders and saxophonist Logan Strosahl’s album seems apropos. The two musicians are presented in a duo format performing music that stylistically embraces the past and future, sometimes within a single tune.
Sanders, a New Orleans native, and Strosahl, who hails from Seattle, met and explored their improvisational passions together as students at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. On Janus, this long association has resulted in each musician having a clear understanding of the other’s intentions in time and space.
Sanders’ “Sigma” opens up this unusual yet emotionally rich album. The tune becomes quite dissonant while it touches enough jazz bases to ring with a certain familiarity.
Next up is a Strosahl original, “Allemande,” with its gentle, almost classical feel, one can imagine the sway of a minuet.
Quickly the rhythm quickens on “Thelonious,” an album standout with its unpredictable, quirky, Thelonious Monk–like take on time.
Interspersed between original tracks, Sanders and Strosahl turn to standards on which to create a palette to blend their colors.
They sweetly resurrect “Old Folks,” with Strosahl’s saxophone “singing” the melody and Sanders acting as the accompanist. Interestingly, Strosahl brings an old-school tone to his instrument. It’s followed by “Be-Bop Tune,” a song that sounds like its title despite the absence of bass and drums.
A certain spirituality fills the more classically oriented “Les Amusemens,” with the exchanges between Sanders and Strosahl suggesting a chamber music duet.
Janus is definitely a two-faced creation that musically mimics the god from whom it derives its name. Sanders and Strosahl possess the talent and desire to look back and forward simultaneously.