Still Evolved can be heard as an accidental suite, a collection of compositions that hang together independent of design. Ted Nash is most recently holding down a tenor chair in the Kennedy Center Jazz Orchestra. Here he turns his attention to small group performance and composition... with a hurricane-like creative force. Mr. Nash has composed eight pieces for the standard trumpet-tenor quintet. And the music is a fresh as strawberries bursting on the roof of your mouth.
Besides an uncanny compositional technique, Mr. Nash chooses his bandmates well. From the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra he picks Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Printup, two fine trumpeters with vastly different approaches to their instruments. The group is rounded out with the de facto Palmetto house rhythm section, pianist Frank Kimbrough ( The Herbie Nichols Project ), bassist Ben Allison ( Peace Pipe ), and Drummer Matt Wilson ( Humidity ). Together, these musicians produce some of the most challenging and enjoyable post-bop of the last ten years.
The disc opens with two ostensible blues tunes: "Shooting Star," featuring Marsalis, and "Jump Start," featuring Printup. Marsalis performs at his absolute best on these sideways, abstract blues, recalling his superiority with the genre as evidenced by Black Codes and his Columbia Soul Gestures in Southern Blue series. His approach is academic and bookish but still manages to shock, surprise and please. Printup is earthier, closer to the source. Lacking the stifling veil of reverence often plaguing Marsalis, Printup allows his trumpet and ideas to breathe.
The remainder of the album emphesizes this juxtaposition with compositions both complex and beautiful. The title cut is a serpentine melody from which Nash, Marsalis, and Kimbrough spin the blues on top of hard bop. "The Competitor" has a bit of an island feel over and extended head. Matt Wilson’s drums are suitably muted and gracefully accurate. The floating ballad "Bells of Brescia" is a very effective vehicle for almost-modal improvisation by Nash and Marsalis. "Point of Arrival" mirrors composer/pianist Andrew Hill’s "Point of Departure," employing Hill’s jagged sense of time and rhythm. The disc closes with hard boppish "Rubber Soul" with a muted Printup and a circuitous head line and solo opportunity. The entire package that is Still Evolved is one of the finest recordings of this year.
For more information, please see Palmetto Records and Ted Nash .