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Ted Nash: Still Evolved

As a card-carrying member of two unique institutions-the Jazz Composers Collective and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra-tenor saxophonist Ted Nash has proven the irrelevance of subgenre distinction and self-imposed regulation. His two albums on Arabesque reinforced this notion, gleefully blending timbre-and-texture experiments with elements of decorum and finesse. Now, with Still Evolved, he practically flings open the gates. He’s crafted an album bound to resonate across the board.

The Jazz Composers Collective seems to provide the disc’s gravitational center; pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Matt Wilson are charter members of the organization. Their cohesion as a rhythm section, chronicled on countless other occasions, seems especially pronounced here. Nash’s full-toned tenor, darting around the contours of his compositions, is well-supported on all sides. And for that matter, so are the trumpet fillips of Marcus Printup and Wynton Marsalis-emissaries from Lincoln Center, filling out the frontline on alternating tracks.

It should come as no surprise that the album’s common currency is swing. With the exception of the closing number, “Rubber Soul,” every track on Still Evolved swings in the time-tested manner. Yet there’s no mistaking Nash’s contemporaneous spirit as a composer and leader; his sinewy tunes twist over and into themselves with serpentine momentum. It’s a method obviously rooted in tradition (from Lennie Tristano to Ornette Coleman) but beholden to no particular school.

Ultimately, that’s the triumph of Nash’s music: not that it bridges a gap but that it occupies its own space. And on an album brimming with highlights-Kimbrough’s sparkling choruses on “Bells of Brescia,” Marsalis’ exclamatory bursts on “The Shooting Star”-it’s no small achievement that the songs, and their seamless interpretations, take center stage.

Originally Published