A charter member of New York’sJazz Composers Collectivewoodwind specialist Ted Nash steps out on his own and following suit with fellow JCC members, shines as a composer and arranger while displaying a keen ear for nuance, melody and lyricism. Along with a string quartet and assistance on two tracks from trumpeter-composer and sometimes employer Wynton Marsalis, Nash has turned in a solid set of originals further enhanced by immeasurable support from fellow bandmates of the JCC and “Herbie Nichols Project” (see AAJ Nov ’99 review). On Rhyme & Reason, the “Ted Nash Double Quartet”, is a finely tuned music machine, led by Nash’ multifaceted horn work along with on-target ensemble work and brisk arrangements.
From the first few moments of Nash’ “Apollo 9”, we are treated to a melodic, yet thoroughly hip string arrangement, bright upbeat choruses, a strong swinging pulse and invigorating solos from Nash, Marsalis and violinist Miri Ben-Ari. “Spirit Dance” is an uplifting Nash composition featuring melodic passages from the string quartet atop a straight four pulse with a few samba motifs tossed in for a pinch of diversity! Here and throughout, the string section provides the tonal balance, continuity and motion and serve as a perfect match within the context of Nash’ body of work. “Longing” is somewhat somber and lush and at times chamber-like all enhanced by Nash’ pensive and adept performance on clarinet. Wynton Marsalis chimes in on the viscous post-bop piece titled, “Sisters” as violinist Miri Ben-Ari pushes full steam ahead with a furious, no nonsense violin solo. Here, Nash soars skywards boasting a large, meaty sound coupled with fierce well executed hard bop-phrasing on tenor sax while ultimately trading fours with drummer Tim Horner. Nash’ burning tenor work on “Ishtar Gate” is underscored by the string section who counterbalance the themes and converge in unison with Nash, providing drama, tension and contrast. As a soloist, Nash is quite adept at reworking the melody lines and seems well versed with ethnocentric modal and harmonic concepts as heard on the final piece titled, “The Trails” which features a lovely and enticingly melodic Asian motif . Here, Nash’ sonorous and deeply moving work on alto flute incites an aura or mystique of perhaps mystical attributes or qualities. All in all, a splendid finale to an extremely impressive release. Rhyme and Reason has staying power! Nash’ ability to entertain and sustain interest lies within his sharp arrangements, memorably melodic compositions and strong leadership qualities. Razor sharp soloing and ensemble work aside, Rhyme & Reason offers the complete package as it all sounds so natural and effortless. No doubt, 1999 has been a remarkably exceptional year for jazz. As we approach the millennium on a bright note, the folks who comprise – the Jazz Composers Collective have provided us with a crop of extraordinarily fine recordings whether performing as an ensemble or enamoring us with these superb solo outings. Highly Recommended!
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