By David Walters
Listen to this while you’re reading.
Last night at Chelsea Table + Stage, the esteemed saxophonist Ted Nash and his quartet put together a soul-stirring tribute to the 1963 album John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, bringing together the deeply super-rich vocals of Tyreek McDole, the twinkling keys of pianist Isaiah J. Thompson, the expressive beat of drummer Matt Wilson, and the legato tones of bassist Ben Allison. Most unfortunately it was only for that one night, but fortunately for me, I was there as it successfully captured the joy and spirit of that classic recording that is a staple in every jazz enthusiast’s collection. Do keep an eye out at https://tednash.com/ to see if it comes round again.
Grammy-winner Mr. Nash is a member of Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and a founder of the Jazz Composers Collective. He has been a composer, arranger, producer, conductor, and writer. As a performer, he is a reedist who has recorded on soprano, alto, and tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, as well as flute, and piccolo. But beyond those accolades, he brought his 53-year-long history of musicianship and a life lived to apply it deftly to a classic convergence that happened as if by magic for one moment in time back in 1963. What this project gave him he said was, “Permission to play like ‘Trane.” Beyond that, it gave him permission to play like himself and share both of their geniuses. Ted’s sax, you can tell, is an old friend, giving him permission to dance and speak in a multi-layered musical fashion. The whole evening was a gathering of friends, both past and present, singing through their instruments and their spirit.
The album unceremoniously called John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman was produced in 1963 (read about it here). It was the only time Coltrane performed with a vocalist. My feeling was nothing could ever top what John and Johnny did so there was no point in partnering with anyone else.
What the live evening with Mr. McDole and Mr. Nash pointed out to me, was the light touch of conviviality that Coltrane brought to this partnering. His role as accompanist in the duo was exquisite. It was like when the setting sun, a cool breeze, and the sweet smell on the wind come together and make the perfect summer eve. Every note caused me to just be exactly where I was and absorb the beauty wafting over me.
This dynamite show took place at the venue, Chelsea Table + Stage which I have to highlight, if you’ve never been, as a gem of a venue. It is both classical and modern, with attentive wait staff, good food and drink, and acoustically divine. Please check out their ever-changing website of performances that you won’t want to miss: https://www.chelseatableandstage.com/
I was sorry to see the evening end.