Paul Nash: The Triumph of Life and Legacy By Mark Kirby
"My life has been given sudden definition, An end point that I can almost prepare for, At once frightening and magnificent..."
Paul Nash Diary, December 28 2003
The measure of a person's life can be seen in the impact they have on other lives and how they handle the often grim vagaries of life. In the face of one's own mortality, the entirety of emotions and fears can be overwhelming. Many though decide to soldier on and concern themselves with the time they have left, the mark they leave behind; with the story of how they inhabited this life and walked the earth.
Paul Nash -- composer, educator and jazz guitarist -- has written such a life story. After earning degrees in both jazz and classical composition, he created the 10-piece Paul Nash Ensemble in 1977. The group included trumpeter Mark Isham who, influenced by Nash's genre of morphing ideas, created New Age music for Windham Hill Records and become a Grammy and Academy Award nominated soundtrack composer. Nash also helped to organize the Bay Area Jazz Composers Orchestra, an ensemble that explored the merging of jazz and classical music. This group featured notable musicians such as trumpet player Tom Harrell and vibist David Samuels.
In 1990, he moved back to New York and founded the Manhattan New Music Project (MNMP), which brought together various new music performers, including French horn innovator Tom Varner and unsung guitar great Vic Juris, among others. Under the MNMP umbrella, Nash wrote chamber music, orchestral pieces and playful avant garde compositions inspired by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
After discovering he had a fatal brain tumor, Nash determined to stamp a legacy to his lifelong career, "...for the prize of life itself (is) the excitement of creation no matter who hears a piece." With the help of producer Julia Reinhart, he set about creating his musical legacy. One part of this is the organization and re-mastering of his earlier compositional works, which are to be released in a seven-part retrospective series.
The other is a two-CD project, one of which you have before you, meant to represent the definitive works that sum up his musical journey. The first CD, "Jazz Cycles," is a work that takes the listener through the development of various jazz styles based on musical elements explored and developed over a 30-year period. The second, "Avant Noir," is a ten-composition work that combines avant garde jazz with the familiar sound and feel of soundtracks from old film noir movies. On both works, Paul is accompanied by a special group of performers associated with MNMP, including ...
Paul Nash has proved throughout his life, and especially in his final year, that the human heart, mind and soul can live on in the things one leaves behind, things that touch and influence people's lives.
Paul Nash was a gifted jazz composer with an original voice. When Paul lost his battle with brain cancer in 2005, the world lost a visionary with a unique harmonic sense and a passion for infectious, driving rhythms. The recordings on this CD are the last Paul produced with his ensemble, the Manhattan New Music Project, but the material in this set has been developed over many years. These pieces have a richness which makes them worth playing and hearing many times over. Paul's compositions were orchestrated with compelling accompaniments and background figures that inspired his soloists to greater heights. Additionally, Paul included beautifully scored ensemble passages utilizing the wide variety of instrumental colors available in his ensemble. Written from materials collected over the course of 30 years and completed in the last year of his life, Jazz Cycles is a kind of suite where each track may be heard as a movement in a larger artistic structure.
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