Working as a jazz musician in the 21st century is difficult enough, but hardly anybody tries to make a go of it with a big band anymore. Yet that's exactly what Ted Nash does on his latest album, Chakra.
The new record is based on the Hindu philosophy that seven points in the human body — chakras — are centers of vital energy. Nash says the new record came about through a commission from a jazz producer he'd met during a recording session. Nash says he knew little to nothing about the belief system when he was first presented with the idea.
"I actually didn't have much reference point. I wasn't practicing anything to do with chakras, actually," he says. "I knew a little bit about it, theoretically. And, of course, heard about it over the years. But it wasn't a real personal choice for me."
After being commissioned, Nash says he threw himself into the research process to learn as much about the belief as he could. He even visited a chakra specialist. When he'd completed six of the seven movements for the record, the composer says he felt a spiritual need to halt the process.
"I waited three or four years before getting to number seven, which is sort of the highest, most spiritually evolved of the chakras. I waited, because I wasn't ready to perform the music or record it," Nash says. "When I was writing the melody, I was sitting at the piano. When I finished playing it, I actually cried. I had tears in my eyes, and I realized, 'Okay, I'm touching on something that is very real for me.' And then I began to capture that as much as possible."
In addition to discussing his evolving connection to Hindu practices, Nash recently spoke with NPR's Arun Rath about how his role as a conductor differs from his experience as a musician. Click the audio link to hear more of their conversation.