It seems just yesterday that Wynton Marsalis filled the chairs in the new Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with young unknown musicians. But here it is 2010 and most of the initial personnel have gone on to become important jazz figures leading their own groups and recording prolifically.
Among the most notable of these is Ted Nash. Born and raised in L.A. under the early tutelage of his father trombonist Dick and his uncle reedman Ted, young Nash played piano at 7 and began clarinet and alto sax at 12. By age 16 he was gigging with Lionel Hampton and initiating a composing career. When he came East, he began associations with full orchestras, i.e., Gerry Mulligan and Mel Lewis, appeared with Don Ellis, Louie Bellson, Toshiko Akiyoshi and was featured with the Quincy Jones band.
In 1994 he was commissioned to compose works involving string quartets. The result was Rhyme and Reason, and the recording was reviewed as one of the best releases of 1999 by Jazz Times (Arabesque). In a few years Downbeat nominated Nash on its "rising star" list, and he subsequently moved to a reed chair with Marsalis's LCJO. All during this time he has composed and recorded at a rapid-fire clip, gaining praiseworthy notices most recently for his CD The Mancini Project (2008, Palmetto).
Nash appeared at Dizzy's this past weekend with a group that featured different trumpeters each night. Marcus Printup was the guest when I saw the group with Frank Kimbrough on piano, Ray Drummond on bass and Willie Jones III on drums. The first tune "Sisters" (celebrating Nash's 2 daughters) revealed languorous chord melodies from Kimbrough and imaginative improvs from Nash, particularly in the trades with drummer Jones. Next came Mancini's "Two For the Road." Here Nash executed octave switches in the head, which deprived the melody of some of its hypnotic lugubriousness.
Marcus Printup joined the party for "Kensington High," Nash's up-tempo reminiscence of time spent in London taking Vicodin for back pain. Here the horns utilized some collective improvisation that resulted in gratifying bandstand intensity.
Ray Drummond's bass shone brightly in the duet interlude with Nash during the bluesy "Gritty Ditty" and highlighted the set when Printup played the Mile Davis- Bill Evans standard "Blue in Green." His work during the closera tune from the chord changes of "Stella by Starlight"was magical.
Ted Nash is the epitome of the multitasking jazz musician of the millenniumplaying with all kinds of small groups and full bands, composing music from bebop four-bar phrases to orchestral poems (his latest"Portrait in Seven Shades" for the LCJOis a tribute to famous painters) and recording in a wide variety of musical settings. It is a role he performs with unusual aplomb.