Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ted Nash at Ivories

Ted Nash
I made it down to Ivories on Monday night to hear the great Ted Nash and his quartet at Ivories in Northwest Portland. Nash and I were adjunct colleagues at the Juilliard school years ago, although we only had spoken once after a faculty meeting. Nash is known as a virtuoso saxophonist, and has played with many of the greats. He plays all the saxophones equally well, and knows the jazz tradition from then until now. He has spent many years with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra. I was excited to hear his music live in Portland.

Ron Horton

Nash had a great team of collaborators to share the bandstand: Ron Horton is a very unique and tragically under-rated trumpeter, whom I have had the pleasure of working with on a number of occasions. Horton plays the instrument effortlessly from low range to high, and has a gorgeous, rich, centered tone. His ideas can seem traditional, but then he can surprise you in the next phrase. Drummer Ulysses Owens, whom I have also had the fortune to work with in the past, is highly in demand as a sideman. Owens currently plays with several groups led by bassist Christian McBride. He's the epitome of tasteful drumming. He played on the quiet side, which balanced with the chord-less quartet very well. (By chord-less, I mean no piano or guitar.....or vibes, I guess if you want to get technical...)
Ulysses Owens

Bassist Paul Sikivie was a real surprise to me, because he was actually one of my students at Julliard; he was in my piano class. He didn't impress me as a pianist(most of my students didn't, at least not in Piano for Non-Pianists, since it isn't their main instrument...), but he really wowed me as a bassist; he plays really in tune, and has a great swinging drive, and takes musical solos. Obviously, he has a lot of responsibility in this group with the absence of a "chordal" instrument. I was happy to see that he is having some career success.

Paul Sikivie
Nash and company were playing some music from a suite which Nash referred to as "Portrait in Seven Shades". The pieces were dedicated to various painters, like Dali, or Monet, for example. This was apparently a scaled-down version of these pieces, since the original commissioned work was for the JLCO, which is a full big band. I'll have to go back and check out the original work, because I could imagine a huge difference in the textures of each piece with a vastly different instrumentation. Regardless, Nash's solos stood out to me as scarily perfect; an improviser who makes no mistakes, and has impressive ideas and also the maturity to know when to quit. His alto playing was focused and smooth, always in tune, and never overbearing.

Nash, Horton, Sikivie, and Owens basically gave a clinic on their respective instruments. I was somewhat disappointed that there were not more people in the audience. I suppose it's hard anywhere to get people to come out on a Monday night. The show was more pricey than most of the shows at Ivories, but shows like these are worth it, especially to students, in that you are getting to hear the masters live. And if you really pay attention, it's almost as good as, or even better, than getting a lesson, and for a fraction of what a lesson costs! Plus, you are helping to keep the music and the venues alive. I hope that at some point, Nash and his men will be able to return to Portland and we'll be able to get more folks to come out and see what they missed the first time......


  1. This show started great and just got better and better as the night went on!

  2. Sweet account. Can make me personally desire to be far better. Appreciate your sharing. You happen to be wonderful.


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