"I look at the drums as one complete instrument, rather than something that's made up of separate components,' says jazz drummer Lewis Nash.
"I like to think of the capability of the drum set as someone would approach the harp or flute or piano," he further explained. "The capacity to create music which can move someone, can touch someone, can inspire someone — I think all those things are possible at the drum set. It's not just a rhythm, time-keeping instrument.
"I like to approach the drums kind of like a poet. There's beauty in there if you approach it that way."
Nash will bring his poetry and music to Salt Lake City Monday, March 12, when the Lewis Nash trio performs as part of the Jazz at the City Centre Sheraton series. Tickets are available by calling the Holladay Pharmacy at 278-0411, or may be purchased at the door.
The trio, comprised of Lewis Nash, Christian McBride and Benny Green, will also give a free workshop, open to the public, from 3:30-5 p.m. in the ballroom at the City Centre Sheraton.
"It's pretty incredible to have three great musicians of this caliber to do a workshop like this together," said GAM founder and concert sponsor Gordon Hanks. "It's very unusual."
During a telephone interview from New York, Nash said the trio was specially put together for the performance in Salt Lake City. "This is just a special edition of the Lewis Nash Trio," he said. "Guys like (Green and McBride) are very busy in their own right, and they're on projects. This is what you'd call a special project, an all-star-type project that I put together. Right now, we're just coming out to play in Salt Lake City.
"(Green and McBride) are two of my favorite musicians, and we have a brotherlike relationship, all of us. We try to play together as often as we can, but right now our schedules are quite busy."
Nash said he got his start on the drums at an early age, when he would put together cardboard boxes of different sizes and "play" them with sticks made of tree limbs.
However, his formal education began in the fourth grade. "I joined the school band after hearing one of my classmates playing a drum roll," he recalled. "I said, 'Boy, I'd sure like to learn how to do that,' and he said, 'You can — join the band,' so I did."
Nash said he didn't give the music profession serious thought, however, until college. "I wasn't a music major, but one of the music professors, knowing that, pulled me aside and said, 'You're not a music major, are you?' and I said, 'No.' He said, 'You're not planning a career in music, are you?' And I said, 'No.' He said, 'I think that's a mistake.' That was probably a big turning point for me.
"Not long after that, I gave it some more thought, and then I started to get some work locally, in Phoenix, Ariz. I started to get some calls from the local professional players. Even at that point, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it, but their encouragement and enthusiasm kind of pushed me along."
Nash's big break came when a friend and mentor, Frederick Waits, recommended him to jazz-singer Betty Carter. "Betty had her secretary call me, and I flew to New York to audition for her," Nash said. "She said, 'OK, kid. You've got the gig. Do you have a passport?' It's been onward and upward since then."
Nash names drummer Max Roach as one of the major influences on his style. "He was an innovator in many ways," said Nash, "particularly in adapting some of the melodic concepts that the other instruments utilize. He figured out a way to kind of emulate the speech-like quality that instruments could achieve on the drums. There's a melodic aspect to his drum solos."