Born in Los Angeles, multi-instrumentalist Ted Nash's interest in music started at an early age. Exposed to music and encouraged by his father, trombonist Dick Nash, and uncle, reedman Ted Nash - both well-known studio and jazz musicians - the younger Nash started playing the piano when he was seven. By the time he turned 12, he had started playing the clarinet; a year later the obviously talented Nash had picked up the alto sax.
In high school Nash had the good fortune to study jazz improvisation with Charlie Shoemake, the innovative teacher and well-respected vibraphonist. Nash's first gig came when he was only 16. At that young juncture he ended playing a week in Hawaii with legendary vibraphonist and band leader, Lionel Hampton. The same year he won an audition to play lead alto with the Quincy Jones band, and by the time he was 17 Nash had toured Europe, appeared on three records, and was performing regularly with the likes of Don Ellis, Louie Bellson and Toshiko Akiyoshi, as well as leading his own quintet.
Ted Nash has been a composer since he was 15. Bellson recorded his first composition, "Tristemente," and place it on Raincheck (Concord). At the time Bellson's quintet included, along with Nash, the great Blue Mitchell.
When he turned 18, Nash decided to make the big move and come to the East Coast and New York City. It wasn't long before he had recorded Conception (Concord), his first album as a leader. During his first three years in New York Nash became a regular member of a variety of ensembles. He worked with the Gerry Mulligan Big Band, the National Jazz Ensemble. He also began what would be a 10-year association as a member of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra.
In 1994, Nash received a commission from the Davos Musik Festival in Switzerland to compose works featuring a string quartet in a jazz setting; it was the seed that led to his forming his group Double Quartet and subsequently to his recording Rhyme and Reason (Arabesque). The effort was extremely well-received. Jazz Times magazine voted it one of the best releases of 1999. Down Beat magazine recognized Ted in its "Rising Star" alto sax category for three years running 2004-2006 as well as in its "Rising Star" tenor sax category from 2003-2005. Another recording, Still Evolved (Palmetto) earned mention on the magazine's "Best CD list" as well.
Nash's most recent release (issued in 2006), In The Loop (Palmetto Records) received one solid review after another, widespread radio exposure, firmly placing the multi-instrumentalist, as the Ottawa Citizen wrote: "among jazz's elite."
Odeon, one of Nash's current groups, which offers an eclectic presentation, likewise has garnered much attention in the jazz world and received features and in-depth mentions from publications such as The New York Times, Village Voice, Boston Globe, and New York Newsday. Said the Los Angeles Times after hearing this group at the Jazz Bakery, one of the area's best clubs: "You say jazz is having trouble these days finding a creative focus? Don't believe it. Go to the Jazz Bakery tonight to hear saxophonist Ted Nash's marvelous group Odeon, and any doubts will quickly be dispelled. What this Los Angeles native is demonstrating with Odeon is the fact that – far from being on a down slope – jazz is in a period of extraordinary opportunity." Gary Giddins, in a Village Voice feature, singled out the first track from Odeon's "Sidewalk Meeting," an adaptation of Debussy's "Premiere Rhapsodie," as his favorite from all the jazz CDs recorded in 2001.
In addition to leading his own group, Nash has been very instrumental and active in the New York-based Jazz Composers Collective. The innovative entity is a musician-run, non-profit organization dedicated to presenting the original works of composers who are pushing the boundaries of their self-expression. Others who participate include Ben Allison, Frank Kimbrough, and Michael Blake. Nash can be heard on several acclaimed CDs produced by the organization, including The Herbie Nichols Project's Love is Proximity (Soul Note), Dr. Cyclops' Dream (Soul Note) and Strange City (Palmetto).
Nash, however, has also been intricately involved - for the last decade - with Jazz at Lincoln Center - both as an educator and as a member of the Wynton Marsalis-led orchestra. Writing in The New York Times last February critic Nate Chenin noted that "Mr. Nash came to the band with a wellspring of jazz experience," but that it "took a while to adjust," given his modern leanings with the Composers Collective. "It didn't take long for Mr. Nash to lay claim to what Mr. Marsalis calls 'the wildcard chair' in the band." Chenin would then quote Marsalis as follow: "He plays, on a virtuosic level, all of the reed instruments. He plays them all perfectly in tune, and has a personality on each one that's different. And he can read music unbelievable well."
And so it is that Nash performs and tours with the large ensemble regularly, and during tenure there has contributed, as composer and arranger, to a great deal of the orchestra's repertoire, and is featured on several Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra recordings. Including Portrait in Seven Shades an extraordinary musical portrait suite of seven painters' art and life. It has been released under The Orchard and Jazz at Lincoln Center label.
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