Ted Nash and Glenn Close Speak with One Voice in TRANSFORMATION

By: May. 05, 2021
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When great artists collaborate, the result is often a fight to the death to be the more prominent voice. Good friends Ted Nash and Glenn Close have created a work that is a beautiful synthesis of both their voices. TRANSFORMATION: PERSONAL STORIES OF CHANGE, ACCEPTANCE, AND EVOLUTION is one part poetry slam, one part theatre piece, one part consciousness-raising rally, and one part jazz festival. The live album was recorded last year as part of the Jazz from Lincoln Center series. It is a song cycle of Nash's jazz tone poems combined with poems, prose, and readings curated by Close. They are joined by an all-star cast including Wayne Brady, Amy Irving, Matthew Stevenson, and Wynton Marsalis. I enjoyed every minute of it.

The album is indeed about transformation: transformation of the body, transformation of the mind, transformation of the soul, and transformation of the very earth we all inhabit. The most heartfelt moment in the cycle is a letter read by Eli Nash, Ted's son, in which he comes out to his dad as transgender. It is startlingly honest and vulnerable. Ted Nash replies to his son in a wordless jazz moment that is equally emotional.

My particular favorite cut was Judith Clark's poem One Among Many, read by Amy Irving, in which she tells the story of a woman struggling to rejoin a bustling city life after 38 years in prison. Nash's music perfectly captures both the excitement and the anxiety of city living. Other highlights include Matthew Stevenson, reading his own story Rising Out of Hatred, in which he has to overcome his own fear to change the heart of a Neo-nazi. Wayne Brady gives a searing performance of his own work, A Piece by the Angriest Black Man in America. And Glenn Close brings her herculean interpretive skills to Reaching the Tropopause. Joined by Brady, she finds joy and light and healing in Tony Kushner's monologue from Angels in America.

Ted Nash has created music that is thrilling, thoughtful, and illuminating without being simply illustrative. There is also virtuoso solo work by Wynton Marsalis, Sherman Irby, Chris Crenshaw, Paul Nedzela, Ryan Kisor, Dan Nimmer, Elliot Mason, Obed Calvaire, Tatum Greenblatt, Victor Goines, and the entire Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The jazz is strong enough to stand on its own but combined with Close's powerful collection of monologues, it is an inspirational, and yes, transformative experience.

TRANSFORMATION: PERSONAL STORIES OF CHANGE, ACCEPTANCE, AND EVOLUTION is available May 7 on the Tiger Turn label on all platforms.

For more information on Ted Nash, visit Follow Glenn Close @glennclose on Instagram.