Multi-reedist Ted Nash is a man of many masks. Some days he poses as a featured soloist in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO) and others he spends as a scribe-in-residence for the Jazz Composers Collective (JCC). At times he wields a robust, full-bodied tenor, while at others he brandishes a fluttering clarinet. Whatever the case, this is one busy cat - and if his recent Palmetto debut is any indication, Nash should brace himself for even busier days ahead.
Joining him on Still Evolved, as well for part of his recent week-long Village Vanguard engagement, is a rag-tag mix of associates. The LCJO contributes the formidable trumpets of Marcus Printup and Wynton Marsalis, while the JCC clocks in with the irreverent rhythms of Frank Kimbrough on piano, Ben Allison on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums. An eclectic crew to say the least, though talented enough to bridge the widest of gaps.
And for the most part they do. On Still Evolved, Printup and Marsalis alternate tracks, infusing Nash's music with their respective brands of chicanery. The former is especially convincing on the meditative "Rubber Soul," while the latter finds his wings on the opening number, "Shooting Star."
While waxing the title track at the Vanguard, Nash and Printup traded mellow, wayfaring licks - only to be outdone by Kimbrough, who wove a crooked, winding gem of a solo that made even the stilted in the audience grin. As for Allison and Wilson, distinction persisted throughout, coloring the action with dependable and consistently creative support.
One of the few points of contention with the recording is that the music occasionally feels over-arranged. Unison lines dominate much of the ensemble playing, giving a sense of formality that it could realistically do without. Nevertheless, thanks to a steady flow of potent solos, each number rounds itself out quite nicely. A rewarding record from one of the music's most adaptable reedmen.