Archive for big band jazz

Album Review: Ted Nash – Chakra

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 4, 2013 by curtjazz

The following review first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine

Ted Nash Big Band

ted nash - chakra

CHAKRA – Plastic Sax Records PSR-2  Earth; Water; Fire; Air; Ether; Light; Cosmos

PERSONNEL: Ted Nash, conductor, alto sax, alto flute; Ben Kono, alto sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; Charles Pillow, alto sax; clarinet, flute, piccolo; Dan Willis, tenor sax, clarinet; Anat Cohen, tenor sax, clarinet; Paul Nedzela, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Kenny Rampton, lead trumpet; Alphonso Horne, trumpet; Ron Horne, trumpet; Tim Hagans, trumpet; Alan Ferber, lead trombone; Mark Ferber, trombone; Charley Gordon, trombone; Jack Schatz, bass trombone; Christopher Ziemba, piano; Martin Wind, bass; Ulysses Owens, drums

By Curtis Davenport

If it should be nominated for no other awards this year, Ted Nash’s new album Chakra gets my hands down vote for “Best Album Cover”. The cover photo of actress/model Tatyana Kot’s back, painted with the seven Tantric Chakra tattoos, is stunningly beautiful. Mr. Nash has put together a short video about the making of this cover (it has quite an interesting story), which is playing on his website. It makes for fascinating viewing. As for the music, it is every bit as attention-grabbing as the cover.

Warning: Portions of the video below are NSFW

Chakra is the second big band album by Mr. Nash, a saxophonist who has been on the jazz scene for over thirty years, releasing numerous albums as a leader. His most notable association has been with Wynton Marsalis as a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Nash composed “Portrait in Seven Shades” for the JLCO, which they recorded in 2010. The work received two Grammy nominations, including best instrumental arrangement.  For the uninitiated, “Chakras” are points in the human body that are considered the centers of life force or vital energy in Hindu metaphysical tradition.  Each of the seven selections is named for one of the Chakras. One would expect an album with such ties to Hinduism and Buddhism to have at least a hint of the music of the Far East in its sound. Instead the compositions and arrangements are thoroughly contemporary big band music. It is dense, it is powerful, it is complex and at times, it swings like mad. The band is peppered with top drawer musicians as soloists such as Anat Cohen, Tim Hagans, drummer Ulysses Owens (who grows more impressive each time I hear him) and of course Mr. Nash himself. In addition there are a few young musicians who turn in revelatory performances.

One of those youngsters is trumpeter Alphonso Horne, a Florida State University graduate and student of piano great Marcus Roberts. Mr. Horne first grabbed my attention on “Ether (Throat Chakra)” a piece about the ability to communicate. Well, Horne does just that with a confident, growling plunger mute solo, “talking” like a preacher as the rest of the band shouts musical encouragement behind him. Horne returns on “Light (Third Eye Chakra)” a hard swinger that starts with Horne and Nash in unison before Owens comes bursting through and kicks the band into high gear. Nash drops a tasty alto lick which gives way to Horne stabbing his way through his upper register with another hot statement. No doubt about it, young Mr. Horne has tremendous potential. “Fire (Solar Plexus Chakra)” is about the ability to be confident and in control. It demonstrates just that through a lush opening statement of flutes, piccolos and clarinets in counterpoint to blaring brass, followed by a crisp trombone solo from Alan Ferber, then by Anat Cohen, IMO the best clarinet player in jazz today, doing what she does best. All the while they are being pushed by Mr. Owens who is playing as if he is dying to say something. Owens finally gets his chance after Martin Wind’s strong bass solo. His solo is fairly brief but he makes full use of his entire kit, with muscular press rolls and bombs. And there’s “Water (Sacral Chakra)”, which begins in a rather tranquil way with insistent triplets that lead to Charles Pillow’s alto. Mr. Pillow picks up where the band leaves off and slowly guides the band into a land of groove populated by Tim Hagan’s fiery trumpet. It’s a masterful arrangement.

Ted Nash has long deserved wider recognition for his gifts as a musician and arranger.  Chakra is a very good album that stands as additional proof of that statement.