Zaid Nasser - alto sax
Sacha Perry - piano
Ari Roland - bass
Phil Stewart - drums
A year after Zaid Nasser garnered a spot on a number of “Best Ten” lists in 2007 with his debut recording (Escape From New York / Smalls SRCD-0024), we’re back with his follow-up release. For those who are just catching up with Zaid for the first time, I’d refer them to this first release for biographical information, which is available online.
Zaid’s had a busy year on tour, mostly outside of the United States. His most recent travels outside the US under the aegis of the US-sponsored Rhythm Road tour prompted this letter from fearless group leader Chris Byars:
“Having just returned from a three-week tour of the Mediterranean and Central Asia, I want to remark on the performance of Zaid Nasser as a cultural ambassador. The contrast of his easygoing, sincere demeanor and compelling saxophone concept brought universal admiration from the various musicians, diplomats and audiences that he met along the way. At one point, a nickname was tagged to Zaid: "The King." I believe it's not the last time King Zaid will be improving the image of our country, passport in one hand, saxophone in the other. He's a natural.”
As a cultural ambassador, Zaid has more to teach us about than just diplomacy, and fans of music from hip-hop to bebop should equally take note. What ties these two seemingly disparate styles together is partly the beat, but at a deeper level, it is also the rhyme. Clearly, the rhyming nature in the poetry of hip-hop is apparent to all, producing a rich fabric of layered rhythm and accentuation that builds suspense and emotional fulfillment. What is less apparent is the extent to which this figures into the long tradition of bebop (extended into modern jazz) improvisation. While the human mind readily grasps similarities in word sounds deployed in a rhythmic context, it is important to note that these similarities are in reality just similarities in the properties of sound, and this can involve properties other than phonological properties. In music, the qualities of pitch, harmonic-degree, and thematic content all figure into the aesthetic picture, and the rhyming character of instrumental music emerges out of these sonic qualities. The perception of these qualities is partly innate (as perhaps the mind’s way of cognitively coordinating events in time having a periodic nature), but is also enhanced dramatically with experience and with musical training. You simply have to walk before you can run. Perhaps it is the element of achievement that makes it so difficult for many to see the similarities between these two musics. But there is no denying in the end that bebop has produced one of the richest forms yet devised for conveying coded cultural meanings in a poetic context. In this regard, Zaid Nasser excels as virtually no one else has, and his rich improvisations, while obviously great from the first listening, typically reveal their real secrets increasingly over time. Beyond that, we’ll let the music speak for itself.