Dayton is in for a world-class performance when Cityfolk and the Victoria Theatre Association bring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis to the Schuster Center on Wednesday, April 25. A bright, briliant big band boasting 15 of the most talented and accomplished players in modern jazz, the JLCO will present an evening of sparking original works and familiar gems.
Saxophonist Ted Nash will be returning to Dayton for the first time since the late 1980s, when he led a combo booking at the old Nite Owl bar in the Oregon District (where Blind Bob’s currently resides).
“I’ve been with the band since 1998,” he said of the JLCO. “I was doing a recording with [pianist] Marcus Roberts, who was in Wynton’s group back in the ‘80s. Wynton came to the session as a guest, just to wathc, and he heard me playing clarinet. He introduced himself and ended up calling me a few times for some gigs and an album. A few years later, an opening came up for an alto saxophone chair in the Lincoln Center band, and I’ve been there since.”
Nash is fortunate to be part of not one, but two great musical legacies: as well as being a member of JLCO, he is the son of trombone legend Dick Nash and nephew of saxophone great Ted Nash, after whom he is named. The Nash brothers were two of the West Coast’s greatest session sidemen for decades, with both their roots reaching back into the big band era.
Dick Nash played trombone for just about every great Golden Era jazz artist imaginable, beginning with Tex Beneke’s big band (spun off from Glenn Miller’s after Miller’s disappearance) and collecting work alongside names like Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, June Christy, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson, Pete Fountain, Lena Horne, and Frank Sinatra, among countless others. The Nash brothers also played on almost all of Henry Mancini’s film soundtracks and studio albums from the late 1950s on, beginning with the famous Mr. Lucky and Peter Gunn recordings. In their honor, the younger Ted Nash recorded The Mancini Project in 2008.
“He was a master of creating an ambience, an environment,” Nash said of Mancini. “I loved the movie The Great Race when I was a kid. I was six when it came out, and my father had solos throughout the score, and we went and saw the movie and then played the album at home, so that kind of music had a big impact on me. Later, it seemed like a natural idea–my father and uncle had this long association and I could make a tribute of it.”
“Music was a great influence they both had on me,” he said, “but more than that, they taught me to trust my decision to be a musician. They were very supportive of me. I never wondered if being a musician would be difficult, and it was a luxury to have that support. My dad would come home from work happy every day. It was a perfect example of someone doing something because they were good at it and loved it. Love always attracts success.”
An elastic composer and arranger whose original songs are as diverse as jazz itself, Nash just last week wrapped a tour promoting his newest album, The Creeper, and was the first JLCO member other than Marsalis to have his original work performed by the JLCO band with the Grammy-nominated Portrait in Seven Shades, an ambitious, gorgeous jazz suite with each movement inspired by a 20th century painter.
“Wynton came to me out of the blue one day,” he recalled, “and asked me to write a longform piece of music that had a unifying theme. It only took me a couple of days to come up with the idea. I’ve always loved fine art, paintings in particular, and I knew having a different painter represented by each movement would really help with all those parallels in color and texture and layers. Whether we’re musicians or painters or writers or whatever, we’re all artists; we go through the same struggles with success, with creativity, with worrying about if people like what we’re doing. I worked with the Museum of Modern Art, and they were great. They gave me carte blanche to come during off hours so I could stand and look at the pantings for as long as I needed to without having to look over someone’s shoulder. And when we played the pieces live in New York City, many of those pieces were displayed behind us.”
Of the band’s Dayton show, Nash said, “We have ten arrangers and composers in the band, so we have a wealth of things to choose from, both new and original. We’ll probably mix newer material with classics from way back. We did a project recently with Chick Corea, and we arranged all the music for him. He was a bit hesitant about it, wasn’t sure it would come together the right way with all the different arrangers working on it. We showed up for rehearsal, and he kept saying, ‘Oh, man, that’s great! Who did that one?’ We’ll probably play some of those. You’ll hear a cross section of what we consider the best of the best of our repertoire, some traditional music played with a fresh energy as well as some of our more contemporary pieces by people in the band, particularly Wynton.”
“I love being a part of this band,” he said. “It’s big band jazz, so there’s a certain structure there, but we’re a complete band of improvisers, so there’s a lot of spontaneity within the structure.”
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Schuster Performing Arts Center