Label: Origin Records
Bradbury's Spirit; Sojourner; Memnonia Quadrangle; How You Loved Me On Mars; Opportunity; Solis Lacus, The Eye Of Mars; Mars, The Bringer Of War; Curiosity; Syrtis Major, The Hourglass Sea; Spirit.
Additional Personnel / Information
Josh Nelson: piano, trumpet, Nord Electro 3; John Daversa: trumpet, EVI; Larry Koonse: guitar; Dave Robaire: bass; Dan Schnelle: drums; Kathleen Grace: vocals; Alan Ferber: trombone; Brian Walsh: bass clarinet; Larry Goldings: B3 organ(4).
"Exploring Mars", by Larry Goldings (liner notes) As long as I've know Josh Nelson, I've been aware of his passion for space exploration, and there is an abundance of exploration on this new disc. Boldly opening with his own spoken word excerpt from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, (sounding like a friendlier Rod Serling), Josh scores the story with an unexpected 5/4 composition, offering an effective juxtaposition to the story's darker overtones. In the final minutes, we hear Josh's beautiful realization of Bradbury's theme - the haunting and strange Martian melody, stated wordlessly by the angelic Kathleen Grace. The exploration continues with "Sojouner," a piece with harmonic and melodic twists, angular and gentle all at once. The track then evolves into a swinging improvising section, with thoughtful solos by guitarist Larry Koonse and Josh. Larry provides a warm and spacious improvised coda on solo acoustic guitar, ending the performance with unresolved mystery. "How You Loved Me On Mars" is one of Josh's most luscious original ballads. Co-written and sung by Kathleen Grace, this soulful Martian love song will surely be a staple of Josh's live shows....it's achingly beautiful. With it's spare orchestration of piano, bass clarinet, trombone and organ, let's hope this ends up on the next "Golden Record" spacecraft mission. Reminiscent of John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu, "Opportunity" gives Josh a chance to converse with himself - trading energetic solos on piano, rhodes, and synthesizer. Along with Josh's remarkable playing on each keyboard, [Drummer and bassist] are burning it up here, and again, this is music I can't wait to hear live. It's not every day one hears a piano reduction of Holst's "The Planets" on a so-called "jazz" record, and this is one reason Josh Nelson stands out as an artist. He takes chances, challenges himself, and is eager to express the many facets of his musical personality. The piano playing here is phenomenal, and the overdubbing that was necessary comes off organically. I could see Josh taking on the entirety of "The Planets" in this way, for a future project. "Curiousity" showcases more great writing and playing from Josh, as well as great sonic textures provided by synths and bass clarinet. Bassist Dave Robaire and Drummer Dan Schnelle shine here as well, displaying that they not only know how to groove hard, but also how to deeply listen to one another. A reprise of "Spirit," featuring the lyrical John Daversa on trumpet, provides an utterly satisfying bookend to this journey. Josh has certainly found the music of the spheres with this wonderful record, and I am certain that somewhere out there, Ray Bradbury is smiling.