Saxophonist Marty Nau's performance at Blues Alley Monday night was modeled after his latest CD, "Strings Attached," an album that tastefully employs orchestral colors and textures. While it's rare to find a musician without major-label support working with strings -- in concert or in the studio -- a series of attractive and sensitive arrangements crafted by Scott Silbert clearly warranted the additional expense.
Nau opened the evening in a conventional setting, bringing his bright and fluid alto to bear on a series of boppish essays, including an unusually brisk reading of "Speak Low" and a confident Charlie Parker-inspired pairing of "How High the Moon" and "Ornithology." While these quartet arrangements allowed for customary solo space and exchanges, Nau and pianist Robert Redd proved wonderfully adept at freshening the themes.
Afterward, Nau's band was joined onstage by a string quartet and French horn player David Kolo. Never intrusive or overly sweet, the string arrangements fashioned by Silbert sensitively framed or softly illuminated a series of attractive melodies, including pieces by Jerome Kern ("All the Things You Are" and "Yesterdays") and Henry Mancini ("Dreamsville"). Discreetly enhancing the charts were Kolo's contributions, which shaded and sometimes shadowed Nau's frequently lyrical alto. The result offered a fresh view of some lovely and familiar material.