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Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra bring concert to Victoria audiences

ON STAGE What: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis When: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 7 p.m. Where: Tickets: $15 ($10 for Victoria Jazz Society members) The recent U.S.
Ted Nash, right, joins Wynton Marsalis, third from right, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet for a politically themed concert presented by the Victoria Jazz Society on Tuesday. Justin Bias


What: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis
When: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15 ($10 for Victoria Jazz Society members)

The recent U.S. election has left many Americans with a renewed sense of hope — Ted Nash included.

The saxophonist with New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra breathed a sigh of relief along with millions of others when President Joe Biden took office Jan. 20, but he expects even more of an outpouring when the impact of COVID-19 finally begins to wane.

“I think the sigh will blossom into an expressive cry,” Nash said with a laugh in an interview Wednesday with the Times Colonist.

If the pandemic hadn’t come crashing down on his plans, Nash, 60, would have been busy during the past year — both on his own as a bandleader and with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. With gatherings cancelled, however, his performance schedule was whittled down to almost nothing over the summer, save for a few outdoor gigs and a late September concert recording that will be presented Tuesday by the Victoria Jazz Society.

The multiple Grammy Award winner joined bandleader Wynton Marsalis and other members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in a septet to perform songs from The Democracy! Suite during the concert, which was taped at the Frederick P. Rose Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

It was the first time the members had been together on stage since March, Nash said, which added to the stress, along with the stringent health and safety requirements in place for the concert.

“We were a little out of practice,” he said. “Listening to each other, playing as a group, and remembering how the vibrations come together, there was a bit of a learning curve.”

Themes of personal and political freedom permeate The Democracy! Suite, which Marsalis wrote as a response to the political, social and economic struggles the U.S. faced during the lead-up to last November’s election. Songs from the album that will be streamed by the Victoria Jazz Society next week include Be Present, Ballot Box Bounce and Sloganize, Patronize, Realize, Revolutionize (Black Lives Matters).

“The compositions were really reflective of a time,” Nash said. “The last year of the administration, and dealing with that. The way they were trying to manipulate the voting and people and COVID. Be Present — that’s about everything. When you show up, be involved.”

Nash, who was raised in Los Angeles, grew up in a household where music and politics mattered equally — his father is trombonist Dick Nash, who worked extensively with composers Henry Mancini and Lalo Schifrin. Members of the Black Panther Party were in the family’s orbit — Hakim Jamal, a cousin of Malcolm X, was a regular at pool parties held at the family’s home, Nash said.

Though he remains politically active, Nash said he prefers to keep his personal politics separate from his music. His album Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom, which won a Grammy Award in 2016, wove historic speeches by Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela into his original compositions, which let his music speak for itself.

Nash said he and Marsalis have a similar outlook on the marriage of music and politics. The two don’t always talk politics, even though it plays a significant — albeit personal — role in the music of both. “I do love embracing political themes in my music, but it’s not a statement about my politics. Wynton is politically savvy and racially aware, but he also doesn’t want to make specific political statements with his music. That’s more of a personal thing. Not as a group, not as an organization.”

The concert Tuesday adds personal touches where it can. Marsalis spoke directly to Victoria audiences during his opening remarks for the exclusive Canadian presentation, and members of the septet will present four free virtual Zoom classes for beginners Feb. 9-March 2 through It’s their way of reaching out to fans of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and offering support during a difficult time, Nash said.

“This is what we do. We do this music for people. We don’t do it in a void. Classes, private lessons, virtual recordings, all of this stuff has been very important for us to get through this.”

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