For In The Loop, tenor saxophonist Ted Nash reconvened his mainstream quintet, last heard on Still Evolved (Palmetto, 2003). Trafficking in fresh interpretations of straight-ahead jazz, Nash's quintet may not be as conceptually unorthodox as his global jazz ensemble, Odeon, but his freewheeling aesthetic flourishes regardless of the setting.
Nash is no stranger to traditional forms of jazz, having spent his formative years playing with Lionel Hampton, Gerry Mulligan and Louie Bellson, among others. Currently a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under the leadership of Wynton Marsalis (who is featured on Still Evolved), his view of the jazz canon is more expansive than Marsalis', finding affinity with his more liberal peers, such as bassist Ben Allison.
Blending brisk post bop, the lyrical impressionism of mid-1960s Wayne Shorter, and even the second-line enthusiasm of old New Orleans, Nash knits together a harmonious blend of styles. Joined by fellow LCJO trumpeter Marcus Printup, he is also supported by one of the finest rhythm sections contemporary jazz has to offer.
Drummer Matt Wilson is impish and irrepressibly creative. Bassist Ben Allison and pianist Frank Kimbrough are capable of effervescent harmonies and in-the-pocket grooves, but they're also partial to stretching boundaries with the ever-mercurial Wilson. Avoiding rote accompaniment, these three players spin a fluctuating web of rhythmic and harmonic invention, breathing vitality into Nash's traditional structures.
Marcus Printup, a rich melodist, plays close to the vest, but with spirited energy and brassy enthusiasm. Nash is a compelling leader: his robust tenor runs are invigorating, his writing stimulating.
Mixing up post bop excursions with more esoteric fare, the title track is a spry tune recalling the quirkiness of Raymond Scott and John Kirby. "Gritty Ditty" blends propulsive, Jazz Messengers-inspired hard bop with New Orleans swagger. The album's epic centerpiece, "Durning's Dance," expands in a suite-like fashion, modulating from a languorous round of unaccompanied solos to rich group interplay with sections of punchy bebop, sly blues and dulcet balladry, demonstrating the quintet's wide-ranging talents.
In The Loop is the sort of resourceful, straight-ahead, subtle and nuance-laden album that rewards repeated listens. Whether exploring boleros and tangos in his Odeon ensemble or bouncy hard bop with this quintet, Nash makes accessible, creative music.
Personnel: Ted Nash: tenor saxophone; Marcus Printup: trumpet; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Ben Allison: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.