First, let me give you a little background: I had the good fortune of meeting Benny Golson when I was 17. He was a guest soloist with the Monterey All-State High School Band. I was playing lead alto. Great band, and one of my most important formative experiences. Some of the other students who were in the band during the three years I was involved were Eric Marienthal, Dan Wilensky, Steve Bernstein, Joe Alessi, Randy Kerber, Larry Lunetta, Larry Koonse, and Chad Wackerman. We performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival and had guests that, in addition to Mr. Golson, included Clark Terry, Chuck Mangione, Pat Williams, and George Duke.
When we finished the concert, on a hot Sunday afternoon in late September, Benny ran into my father back stage, trombonist Dick Nash (they had worked together in the studios in LA). Benny expressed an interest in producing me. This story probably deserves a longer telling, but for now, to keep it short...a few weeks later, sitting at a large conference table in his studio at A & M, he and his business partner (suit and cigar) offered me a five-record deal. I think I was overwhelmed (and perhaps not ready) and after a few days thinking it over, chose not to accept the offer.
Anyway, in recent years I have worked with Benny a couple times - with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and when I was directing the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra - and he always impressed me with his beautiful playing and writing, and his great attitude and youthful energy.
When he learned of my Uncle Ted’s passing he wrote a beautiful e-mail that brought warmth to my soul and tears to my eyes. A short correspondence followed, and I asked Benny permission to reproduce it here, on my blog.
Here it is:
I would appreciate it so much if you could somehow get my message which follows to Ted Nash who is being advertised as using RICO reed.
I chose Ted many years ago as the winner in his teenage category and he went on to never disappoint me in his ability to move ahead undauntedly armed with his tremendous talent which has now come into full bloom in a wonderful array of myriad expressive ways.
I would greatly appreciate your doing this for me as I don't know how.
Thank you so much, as you yourself continue to move ahead remaining in tandem with immutable time.
I was totally devastated to learn of your uncle Ted's passing. Somehow we mortals intuitively see forever in those we care about. Your words and memories of him touch the deep grotto of love and appreciation that reaches across the irresistible expanse of corrosive time and its effect on humankind.
John (Coltrane) and I started out together in Philadelphia as mere amateurs as we were mesmerized by your uncle's beautiful sound and superiority of the altisimo range of his saxophone. For years he was a goal so many of us sought. He was completely unique in his talent in that the things not only left the bowels of his saxophone striking the medium of the air and ears, but hearts as well, not always a common practice everyone is capable of.
My heart hangs quite low because of the passing of this iconic musician, who must have likewise been a similar person. Be assured, he has now, and long since, taken up residence in our memories vividly recalling to mind a wonderful and enlightening time in his and our lives when he made our hearts 'sing' along with his.
Bless him and bless you as you continue your own 'journey' on the same path we find his footprints we follow ... if we can.
Unremittingly continue giving the future with its indistinguishable face, a face of your own creative making. Your uncle and your father have done this. So, Noblesse Oblige ... and onward and upward!
Wow, what a beautiful e-mail. So great to be let into your thoughts and feelings about my Uncle. Thank you for that.
The day before Ted passed I was at rehearsal with Wynton and the big band, and I know Uncle Ted's time was VERY limited, having talked with him the day before. I had the music librarian pull out Leap Frog, and we got Ted on the phone and played this piece that he recorded with Les Brown for him live. He wasn't able to talk but his caretaker said he was nodding his head and indicating with his eyes that it sounded good. He passed the next day.
He was a big influence on me, not when I was younger - when I was checking out the heavyweights, like Bird, Sonny, Benny Golson - but later when I was in my late 20s. That is kind of when I really "discovered" his playing. On my last CD - the Mancini Project - I pay tribute not only to Hank, but to my Uncle and Father. On Dreamsville I played the bridge as close to the way my Uncle played it on the original recording.
I really appreciate the belief you had in me when I was a teenager, when you brought me in to your office and offered to produce me. Not sure what happened exactly, whey we didn't end up working together, but I am sure it had something to do with my being young and foolish... :-).
Thank you again, Benny, for your thoughtful words. Would you mind if I used some or all of it in my blog?
Hope to see you soon!
You've come a million creative miles since your teenage years. I heard great potential even in those young years. After meeting you, I used your father a lot, especially at Paramount. He's a real pro whom I depended on a great deal even if he wasn't aware of it. Your uncle was great, but, then, so was and is your dad. I know he remembers those days of 'grinding it out.'
Feel free to use all or any part of my rhetoric because it's all true ... absolutely TRUE.
I must tell you, Ted, I'm so proud of you. A few months ago when I introduced Johnny Mandel at Lincoln Center, I heard your big band writing for the band and the originality of your capacious mind and was knocked out! You've not only never let me down, but layed a few surprises on me.
You've made time your confederate and are in tandem with it, defying its dark side with the bright light of your talent.
Do continue to move ahead with great thrust as in the case of a bullet when it leaves the muzzle. I will expect nothing less; you've parlayed your potential (that which existed in possibility) into extant reality as the past overtook the present and assumed the role of the future. You're dead on it, Ted.
Do let me hear from you. We just arrived at our place here in Germany and will be here until late November when we play Bangkok then head back to 'The City.'
Onward and upward,