Thursday, October 13

La Espada de la Noche: Review/Analysis

La Espada de la noche (linked above), by Ted Nash and his band Odeon, is rapidly becoming my favorite album. Occasion, by Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis is vying for the top spot as well, but I'll leave a discussion of that one for another day.

Odeon is an awesome jazz quintet. Well, not exactly jazz... but the group is shaped much like the quintets made famous by Horace Silver. Silver's quintets contain:

  1. Trumpet
  2. Tenor sax
  3. Piano (Silver himself)
  4. Bass
  5. Drum set
However, these instruments are not what is copied in the new Ted Nash album. Instead, it's the roles they play that are carved from the same mold:
  1. Melody
  2. Harmony
  3. Comping instrument
  4. Bass line
  5. Percussion
Each of these instruments, in the quintets of Horace Silver, plays the melody at various times; and, of course, they all take solos here and there.

Odeon is no different in the basic structure, but (get this!) the instruments chose to play the fixed roles are these:
  1. Tenor Sax/Clarinet
  2. Violin
  3. Accordion
  4. Tuba/Trombone/Baritone Horn
  5. Drum set
The only part of the group that's really "traditional" is the drum set, since even the tenor sax plays a role different from its usual place. (This is mostly because Ted Nash is the tenorman, so he gets the #1 spot since he's the bandleader.)

And it works! It's not exactly what some call "jazz," but the instrumentation creates a really neat feel of a tango/klezmer ensemble with a brass band influence. You can click this post's link, above, to go to Amazon and hear some clips from the CD.

It's great stuff, and all the better because it's unusual. Those who know me best are aware that the thing I value most in music is unpredictability, and this novel ensemble are about as unpredictable as it gets without straying into some sort of Schoenbergian serialism. There's even a rendition of "Night in Tunisia" on the album for the jazz devotees, but it's played in a style you've never heard before. I highly recommend it, both as an intellectual exercise in broadening your musical horizons and as a piece of art that's just really good.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by emailing the author (use the link above).

The Geek Code desperately needs updating, but in any case here's mine (as of 2010-02-28):

Version: 3.12
GIT/MU d+(-) s:+>: a C++> ULXB++++$ L+++ M++ w--() !O !V P+ E---
W+++ N o++ K? PS PE++ Y+ PGP t !5 X- R- tv+@ b++ DI++++ D--- e*++
h--- r+++ y+++ G+

If you really care about knowing what that all means, you either know the code already, or you can get it decoded for you here.