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Ted Nash Double Quartet: Rhyme and Reason

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“Chamber music.” The phrase carries with it something of the feel of a high starched collar. Its genteel overtones seem at some remove from the earthy, improvised roil of jazz. So chamber jazz is an oxymoron. Right? This recording demonstrates that the range of what might be called chamber jazz is just as broad as that of its classical cousin. What began with the John Kirby Sextet and the Modern Jazz Quartet continues to make its creative way through our world.

Reedman Ted Nash has put together an intriguing Double Quartet that is sort of like a baker’s dozen: Nash’s reeds and rhythm section (Frank Kimbrough, piano; Ben Allison, bass; Tim Horner, drums) are joined by a string quartet (Joyce Hammann and Miri Ben-Ari, violins; Ron Lawrence, viola; Tomas Ulrich, cello)-plus vibist/percussionist Erik Charlston and, on two tracks, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. The compositions, inspired, Nash tells us, by the interplay of his two children, are deeply layered in counterpoint that makes good use of the ensemble’s resources. In contrast to Max Roach’s double quartet, these are less two antiphonal choirs than an integrated unit. Though one of the through-composed pieces sounds like a promising student exercise, Nash has created some stunning settings for improvisation. His playing is broadly sourced and often inspired; his flight with Marsalis on “Sisters” is brief but delightful. Here, here.