With Sidewalk Meeting, saxophonist Ted Nash premieres a new, highly unconventional group called Odeon. Nash, playing saxophones and clarinets, is joined by Wycliffe Gordon on trombone and sousaphone, Miri Ben-Ari on violin, Jeff Ballard and Matt Wilson on drums, and Bill Schimmel on accordion. The absence of bass -- Gordon fills in the bottom with his sousaphone as much as he can -- makes Odeon far from your ordinary jazz group, although jazz improvisation is mainly what informs the band's approach to repertoire. Nash opens with his arrangement of Claude Debussy's "Premier Rhapsody" and makes it sound like Duke Ellington. Schimmel gets his accordion to sound like a full big-band saxophone section, a feat he also accomplishes during the groovy "Jump Line." Gordon often goes for maximum effect on the wah trombone, particularly with his intro to "Sidewalk Meeting (I)," which evolves into a beautiful folk song for bass clarinet, trombone, and violin. "Sidewalk Meeting (II)" closes the album with the same melody, but hyped up to a jamboree tempo. Nash also mixes up the instrumentation with "Reverie," a masterful clarinet/accordion duet, and Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing," a jam-style foray for tenor sax, sousaphone, and drums. Odeon seamlessly integrates the different sides of Nash's musical personality (he's a member of both the maverick Jazz Composers Collective and the more conservative Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra), and that's just the kind of bridge-building that modern jazz needs.
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AllMusic Review by David R. Adler