Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King -#Jazz – Ted Nash – Saxophonist and Composer – Portraits in Seven Shades

Welcome to the music column with William Price King and this week the featured artist is Ted Nash, Saxophonist and Composer  and his work Portrait in Seven Shades.

About Ted Nash courtesy of Ted Nash Website

Born in Los Angeles into a musical family (his father, Dick Nash, and uncle, the late Ted Nash, were both well-known jazz and studio musicians), Nash has that uncanny ability to mix freedom with substance, blues with intellect, and risk-taking with clarity. He is a co-founder of the New York-based Jazz Composers Collective, a musician-run, non-profit innovative entity dedicated to presenting the original works of composers pushing the boundaries of their self-expression. Nash is also a long-standing member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with Wynton Marsalis.

Nash has become one of the most significant jazz composers of the 21st century. His recordings have received wide critical acclaim, appearing on the “best-of” lists in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Village Voice, and The Boston Globe. Portrait in Seven Shades, his first big band recording, garnered two Grammy nominations. His following big band album, Chakra, received critical acclaim and charted on Billboard. Jazz Times Magazine on Chakra:

A lover of film and television scores as well as symphonic works and big-band jazz, Nash turns what could have been an esoteric, new-agey affair into music that swings and pops with tension and release as much as it beguiles.

Receiving two Grammy® Awards, Presidential Suite is Nash’s most significant work. Inspired by great political speeches of the 20th century dealing with the theme of freedom, it is rich with social and political awareness. It also involved a very creative approach; Nash transcribed the speeches for their actual musical pitches and created themes, placing them into contexts that embraced the speakers and the location and era of the speeches. For the recording, each track is introduced by an excerpt from the speech that inspired it, read by significant figures from the world of entertainment, politics and sports, including actors Glenn Close and Sam Waterston; Ambassador Andrew Young; Senator Joe Lieberman; authors Deepak Chopra and Douglas Brinkley; diplomats William vanden Heuvel and David Miliband.

You’ve learned how to make your instrument beautifully sing. You ‘slap’ the listener in the face with your daring and the unexpected (creating vital anticipation) at one moment, then later sooth it with even more precious, deeper feelings of the heart. Bravo!!!Benny Golson

About Portrait in Seven Shades courtesy of Wynton Marsalis

Portrait in Seven Shades, performed by the word-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and composed by JLCO reedman Ted Nash. Nash s suite consists of seven movements, each inspired by a master of modern art who worked in the century around the apex of jazz; Chagall, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Pollock and Van Gogh. The recording also features special guest musicians Nathalie Bonin (violin), Wycliffe Gordon (tuba), and Bill Schimmel (accordion). The writer Will Friedwald said Music is like painting in time, painting is like music in space. Portrait in Seven Shades illustrates this point masterfully.


This piece is inspired by two of Chagall’s iconic works: “I and the Village (1911) and Calvary (1912) “ and by costume designs and renderings Chagall created for the character of Zemphira, a gypsy from the ballet Aleko.

“Chagall” opens with an accordion on a short cadenza.* The theme is played by the clarinet and by the violin – an instrument that appeared often as a subject in his paintings, like a muse. The movement ends with a klezmer*- styled romp in celebration of the artist and his heritage.

*Klezmer-style – Originally, the word “klezmer,” from the Yiddish language, meant ‘vessel of song’ and later, simply ‘musician.’ However, it has come to characterize the style of secular music played by Ashkenazi Jews for joyful celebrations.

*Cadenza – In music, a cadenza is, generically, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a “free” rhythmic style, and often allowing virtuosic display. During this time the accompaniment will rest, or sustain a note or chord.


Nash’s motivation for this piece comes from Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” which depicts a barren landscape populated by melting clocks. This surreal scene is what inspired Nash to develop the time signature 13/8, a time signature which is quite unusual. An ostinato bass line opens this composition and the persistent drum groove exposes the aggressive quality of Dali’s painting. There are many intricate melodic patterns flowing over the beat and it culminates with flamenco – style claps coming from the band, paying tribute to Dalí’s Spanish heritage.

Van Gogh

To compose this piece, Nash had many references from which to choose, but there was one in particular which stood out and that is “The Starry Night “,  the view of the night sky from Van Gogh’s sanitarium which he painted from memory. This composition features the wistful, melancholic playing of Wynton Marsalis who expresses, with his trumpet, the broad strokes and textures that one finds in Van Gogh’s paintings. Marsalis’ solo ends with an allusion to “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”, a blues standard popularized by Bessie Smith. This is also the first composition in which Nash wrote his own lyrics, interpreted by Vincent Gardner.


Nash thought of Picasso as the Miles Davis of the art world. Picasso was responsible for analytical and synthetic cubism whereas Miles pioneered bebop and modal jazz, becoming more daring in the development of fusion just like Picasso dared to overturn established conventions. This piece, inspired by “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, is divided into two movements and expresses Picasso’s romantic and emotional side as well as his intellectual side – cubism. To do this Nash explored the idea of fourths* (four sides to a square – cubism) with four tonal centers, though its root is in the standard flamenco key, which is E major.

*Fourths – A fourth is a musical interval encompassing four staff positions in the music notation of Western culture, and a perfect fourth is the fourth spanning five semitones.


Nash, inspired by “Dance “, set out to express the joyful childlike-quality and playfulness which he found apparent in Matisse’s paintings and in particular this one. Unlike Picasso who became more sophisticated in his art, Nash found that Matisse, a master of color, had a quirkiness in his works and was more simple. Nash compares Matisse’s non-conformity to that of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk and was inspired by Monk’s rhythmic quirkiness when he approached this composition. Matisse wrote, “I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces in me”. That’s about how Nash felt when he composed this piece.

Buy Ted Nash Music: Amazon

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About William Price King

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.

In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.

William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION

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As always we would love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally and William