Before he was 20, saxophonist Ted Nash had recorded his first record and had played with musicians as diverse as Lionel Hampton, Quincy Jones and Don Cherry. Now, more than 20 years later, he is at home in both the up- and downtown worlds of NYC jazz as a part of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Composer’s Collective. With such connections, Nash is able to assemble the decidedly adventurous rhythm section of bassist Ben Allison, drummer Matt Wilson and pianist Frank Kimbrough with trumpeters Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Printup. This has resulted in very listenable, though not overly daring, interpretations of eight Nash compositions that make up Still Evolved.
Although each trumpeter plays on only half of the cuts, there is a surprisingly focused overall group sound. Never hogging the spotlight, Nash, Allison and Wilson push both Marsalis and Printup to move outside the listener's expectations. “The Shooting Star” features a Marsalis/Nash tension building duet that erupts into a very bold trumpet solo that Nash matches on tenor, before the two return to a perfectly in synch reprise. “Jump Start” showcases Printup mute work and a creative piano foray coupled with an engaging sax solo that plays off a quirky rhythm.
Still Evolved has many highlights: Nash’s ability to mesh with both Marsalis and Printup in precise interesting duets, an exceptional rhythm section, and Kimbrough’s fine piano interpretations. All these serve to push what could have been a ho-hum “all star” session into the realm of a solid creative effort that breaks down walls between the usually divisive uptown/downtown NYC jazz scene. Along these lines, “The Competitor” strikes as a decidedly upbeat piece in which Allison sets a quick pace and then pushes Nash and Printup to further explorations. Sax/trumpet trade-offs become concurrent complementary solos before the competition is declared a “draw” and the piece ends as amicably as it began.
Special mention goes to “Bells of Brescia,” an apparent homage to the 18th century Italian church explosion that killed three thousand. Marsalis impresses with his tone and sets a meditative mood that is carried through by Nash and Kimbrough. Though its feel is definitely more uptown than down, Still Evolved draws its vigor from Ted Nash’s ability to bestride the NYC jazz scene. One hopes that for his next evolution, Nash will invite Wynton downtown for a session that further expands on this effort.
The Shooting Star 2. Jump Start 3. Still Evolved 4. The Competitor 5. Bells Of Brescia 6. Point Of Arrival 7. Ida's Spoons 8. Rubber Soul.