Born: August 1, 1978
With his fifth album as a leader, Los Angeles-based pianist- composer-arranger Josh Nelson continues to broaden his scope with a fresh and wholly personal take on the jazz tradition. Brimming with stimulating ideas and chock-full of sterling solos from his very capable crew of trumpeter Dontae Winslow, trombonist Alan Ferber, bass clarinetist Bran Walsh, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Dave Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle, Discoveries sets the bar higher than Nelson’s previous acclaimed outings—2007’s Let It Go and 2009’s I Hear A Rhapsody.
Already an accomplished pianist (he was a 2006 Thelonious Monk Competition semi-finalist), Nelson is emerging as a promising composer-arranger on the West Coast scene. And while his solo piano meditations on Discoveries may invite comparisons to Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson, his writing throughout this ambitious release ranks alongside the work of such East Coast counterparts as Darcy James Argue and John Hollenbeck. A great admirer of composer-arrangers like Maria Schneider and Bob Brookmeyer, Nelson aspires to that lofty level with some very thoughtful and evocative writing on Discoveries....
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- Let It Go by Jakob Baekgaard
A debut of magnificence, Nelson is a talented young composer and pianist, someone to keep a close eye on.
Nelson distinguishes himself as a first-rate player and composer with a fresh, wholly personal take on the music. - Bill Milkowski
Downbeat January 2008 Reviewed by James Hale
Los Angeles-bred pianist Josh Nelson has his heart firmly on his sleeve for much of his debut recording, planting six yearning ballads in the center of Let it Go and using the plaintive timbre of Seamus Blake's tenor for maximum effect.
A player with strong stylistic links to Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson, Nelson also gets tremendous support from drummer Matt Wilson, who masters the tricky rhythmic feel of Loose End and adds casual waltz-time anarchy in the background of the Beach Boys' obscure Tears in the Morning. As his choice of the Sunflower nugget illustrates, Nelson has a finely tuned ear, which shows itself again in his inclusion of the pretty standard Love Letters and Ben Wendel's Julia. His own Leaving Here is less effective, despite a pleasant guest vocal by Sara Gazarek.
Interesting territory exists beyond the dominant balladic material, too. Introspection on 401 surges past ethereal introspection on the back of a brawny Blake solo, and closing title track pairs Wilson's slamming drums against a cyclical theme.
All About Jazz allaboutjazz.com Jakob Bækgaar December 9, 2007 This is not only an outstanding debut, it's one of the best releases of the year.
JazzTimes December 2007 Reviewed by Forrest Dylan Bryant
Josh Nelson establishes a clear identity in the six original tunes that anchor this album...