Even before listening to this album, there’s a tinge of sadness involved because, soon after the album was completed, Virgil Howe, son of Yes guitar legend Steve Howe, died on September 11th, aged only 41, from an as of yet unexplained cause. As well as the new album with his father, Virgil Howe was due to begin a nationwide tour with his band, Little Barrie, known for the theme to Better call Saul, and a fourth album, Death Express had not long been released. Deepest sympathies to Steve Howe and his family on the tragic loss of such a young life.
The label releasing the album, InsideOutmusic, released a statement saying “this was supposed to have been a new beginning for an exciting musical collaboration but, now, it’s become one of the saddest albums we have ever worked on”. Steve Howe himself says he wants Nexus to be “A fitting tribute to Virgil’s life and legacy”.
Nexus explores a completely different side to Virgil Howe’s talents, both as a writer and a keyboard player. He wrote all the songs on the album, and he plays bass, drums and all keyboards, while Steve played acoustic and electric guitar. The result of this collaboration is a series of beautiful diverse songs varying between neo-classical elements, dreamy jazz, straight forward grooves and cinematic spacy themes. Given the talents of both players, there are no epics on this album, no attempts to engage in lengthy virtuoso noodling for its own sake. This is just a collection of well-played songs with a gorgeous flow and feel to them, performed by two talented musos.
If you only know Steve Howe through his work with Yes and Asia, this album might surprise you. Most of the songs on Nexus are quite short, with only one breaching the five-minute mark. There’s a dreamy atmospheric sense to tracks like ‘Leaving Aurora’ and ‘Passing Titan’, with its compelling and achingly haunting melody. ‘Nick’s Star’ is dedicated to Virgil’s late friend, Nick Hirsch. There’s a poignant feel to the song and it’s a lovely way to remember someone close to you. While Virgil provides the background to tracks like ‘Night Hawk’ and ‘Astral Plane’, Steve plays quite some lovely, sensitive guitar to develop the song further.
Steve Howe is justifiably proud of his work with Virgil on Nexus. “It’s been refreshing to work with Virgil and we’ve pulled this beautiful album together” he says. They have indeed. This is an album which should be listened to late at night, with the lights out and through good headphones, thinking good thoughts about Virgil Howe.