One of Ted Nash’s earliest memories is of his father, trombonist Dick Nash, weeping. The date: Nov. 22, 1963. “I was 3 years old,” says the multi-instrumentalist and composer, recalling the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “It actually piqued my awareness of what a politician was, what a president was, to see that it affected my father so much.” Nash’s parents were dedicated civil-rights activists in Los Angeles, and that sense of engagement suffuses his longform large-ensemble work Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom. This piece, now available in a two-disc set from Motéma, presents eight original compositions inspired by both the ideas and sonic characteristics of famous presidential orations from around the world.
Presidential Suite was originally commissioned for Jazz at Lincoln Center, where Nash is a mainstay of the JALC Orchestra’s saxophone section. When first approached, “I was thinking a lot about how much music there is all around us. Whenever anything happens, or anybody speaks … it all has a pitch.” These notions, combined with the natural musicality Nash observed in the voices of great speechmakers, led to the concept of Presidential Suite.