The Creep is saxophonist Ted Nash’s foray into free jazz. The instrumentation is the same as Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking quartet of 1959: alto, trumpet (Ron Horton), bass (Paul Sikivie) and drums (Ulysses Owens Jr.). But, as you would expect, the result is a more polished, orderly exposition of free jazz. If you’re a musician, you should find the players’ motivic improvisations inspiring on both rhythmic and melodic levels. There is also the pounding pulse of Sikivie and the extroverted—albeit sensitive when required—accompaniment of Owens. The quartet plays with commitment and intensity along with great skill and ensemble consciousness.
The program consists of seven Nash originals plus Coleman’s “Kaleidoscope” and Sherman Irby’s “Twilight Sounds.” The theme statements are apt to include the horns in harmony (occasionally evocative of the Gerry Mulligan pianoless quartet of the ’50s) or the horns playing counterpoint melodies or ricocheting lines off each other. “Plastic Sax Rumble” and “Plastic Sax Lullaby” offer contrasting images: a jaunty, boppish ride with a lightness reminiscent of West Coast jazz vs. a slower, big city reflection, but with a busy, idea-packed Nash solo. The title track, with a walking, skipping bassline and a hint of expectancy in the horn melody, would make a good crime show theme. (Nash is the son and nephew of Los Angeles jazz and studio musicians: trombonist Dick Nash and reedman Ted Nash, respectively.) “Kaleidoscope,” with its uptempo, zigzagging head, is a dazzling performance.
You can detect various jazz alto influences in Nash’s playing—Coleman, obviously, but also Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley and Eric Dolphy—but none to the detriment of his own musical identity and emotional bearing. The underrated Horton seems to have an innate grasp of how to fuse with Nash without necessarily evoking Don Cherry, Coleman’s original quartet partner. His lines show forthright originality based on personal methods of thematic and emotional development.