The Mancini Project
If you ever wondered what the John Coltrane Quartet of the Impulse! years might have sounded like on the compositions of Henry Mancini—or your face is contorted in horror at the thought—this new release offers more than a couple of hints. It’s on tenor rather than soprano sax that Ted Nash sounds like Trane, and the confluence on Mancini’s “Theme from the Night Visitor” and “Experiment in Terror” is particularly potent. When the tempo slows on “Dreamsville,” “Cheryl’s Theme” and “Lujon,” we’re hearing the simple eloquence and passion of JCQ’s Ballads even when Nash has switched to alto.
This project is personal for Nash, whose father, uncle, and teacher were all part of the ensemble featured on The Mancini Generation TV show. Besides three saxes—tenor, alto, and soprano—Nash is firing off an alto flute on “Something for Nash” (originally written for Nash’s dad, Dick) and “Soldier in the Rain.” Briefly, he’s even tootling on piccolo in “Baby Elephant Walk,” the final track. Other than the pachyderm, we get glimpses of “A Shot in the Dark,” “Mr. Yunioshi” and “A Quiet Happening.”
Nash’s rhythm section is exemplary: the venerable Rufus Reid on bass, Matt Wilson on drums, Frank Kimbrough at the keyboard. From the opening bars of “Night Visitor,” they’re clicking in a special way. Kimbrough relaxes beautifully on his “Something for Nash” solo and romps infectiously in “The Party.” Reid is heard to best advantage in “Soldier in the Rain,” while Wilson’s colorful brushwork is an asset on every track he’s involved in.
The chameleonic Nash brings more than Trane’s sound to the table when he concentrates on tenor. In the trio format, you may hear echoes of Sonny Rollins in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and there’s a Stan Getz smoothness as he introduces the melody of “Two for the Road.”