“Transformation is the highest expression of change,” Ted Nash writes in the liner notes for this suite of pieces he’s composed and arranged. “[It] dictates a dramatic alteration of form or character—sometimes both,” he continues, then adds that “the highest compliment one can give a piece of music, or writing, is that it has been transformative for the one who experiences it.” Nash, who plays soprano saxophone, conducted the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra for the recording, made live at JALC just prior to the 2020 lockdowns. The music, as it needs to in order to make its case, reaches out broadly, using spoken word and the orchestra’s expansiveness to explore various implications of the title concept.
“Dear Dad/Letter,” with text and spoken word by Eli Nash, the musician’s son, is one of the most poignant numbers performed. Written some time ago, it marked the younger Nash’s coming out as transgender to his father. “I have something I’ve wanted to share, but it’s difficult for me to do so,” Eli states unambiguously as he begins to open his heart, his father among the soloists accompanying him. Directly following is “Dear Dad/Response,” an entirely instrumental affirmation, featuring more of Ted Nash’s soprano, up-tempo and joyful, a vote of support.
Actress Glenn Close is co-billed on the album and contributes spoken word to several numbers, offering dramatically voiced readings accompanied by the orchestra, then stepping aside to allow soloists to emerge. One highlight, featuring both Close and actor Wayne Brady, is “Reaching the Tropopause,” with text from playwright Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Closing the program, it features dynamic solos from trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and pianist Dan Nimmer; it’s an emotional conclusion to an empowering work of positivity, so welcomed at a time of such instability and uncertainty.