Richard Nelson is a composer and guitarist who is equally at home in both the jazz and contemporary concert music traditions. An active composer in both idioms as well as a professional jazz guitarist, Richard divides his time between the in-the-moment spontaneity of improvisational explorations and the more deliberately organized realms of composition. But rather than keeping these modalities separate, he fosters a healthy creative interplay between them.
The Richard Nelson Imaginary Ensemble is his vehicle for concerts under his own leadership. Flexible in instrumentation, wide-ranging in genre, the group defies categorization with programs that range from fully-composed pieces and progressive jazz (and improvised music of all sorts) to straight-ahead jazz and music across the rock/pop/folk/blues spectrum. Alongside Richard's polystylistic original compositions might appear tunes by Cole Porter, John Lennon and Ornette Coleman as well as contemporary treatments of American traditional songs associated with performers such as Mississippi John Hurt and Roscoe Holcomb.
As a jazz performer and composer/bandleader, Richard has performed widely at festivals, clubs, colleges and other venues in the U.S. and abroad, including the Boston and Concord Jazz Festivals, Symphony Space in New York, and Scullers and The Regattabar in Boston. Musicians he has had the privilege of performing with include, in his student years, Slide Hampton, Joe Henderson, John Handy, George Duke, and Joe Pass, and, more recently, Sheila Jordan, Geri Allen, Mat Maneri, Taylor Ho-Bynum, Rajesh Mehta, Walter Thompson, and Don Stratton. Many of these appearances have been with the Boston-based Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, of which he has been a core member for many years. Richard has released two albums, Origin Story and Figurations, as a leader, and he appears as a sideman on many others, including eleven with Aardvark.