Pittsburgh native Steve Nelson has made his way through the jazz ranks playing high profile gigs with artists as diverse as Grant Green and Dave Holland. Since the 1970s, the Rutgers University alum has been quietly carving out his place as one of the premier vibraphonists working in jazz today. On Sound-Effect Nelson, with the help of pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, stands front-and-center, towering over the vibes with vigor, clarity and unbridled soul.
Nelson contributes three compositions to the set. All are harmonically rich, melodically fervent and, best of all, unmistakably swinging. The opening "One Thin Dime is full of bluesy-type figures and rhythm section breaks. The familiar-sounding fare serves as the perfect medium-tempo, warm-up vehicle. By contrast, "Song for Tina, a cascading waltz with flowing lines and clustered chords, entices intense solos, fueled by Nash's limitless energy. Nelson's well-crafted ballad, "Sound Essence, lets the vibraphonist explore the full range of his instrument in a gentle, unhurried manner.
The remainder of the disc is comprised of a lyrical waltz, "Arioso, from the late pianist James Williams, and four standards. Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Desafinado, Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring and Ahmad Jamal's "Night Mist Blues give the disc a predictable, jam-session feel, elevated by exceptional performances and incomparable feel. The Dietz and Schwartz classic "You and the Night and the Music, a disc highlight, is taken as a no-nonsense chops-buster
It's hard to go wrong with a release like Sound-Effect. Nelson, Miller, Washington and Nash are at the top of their game, and play with unmatched passion and stamina. More original material would have been welcome, yet the result is a wonderful addition to the catalogue of a modern master.
Personnel: Steve Nelson: vibraphone; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Peter Washington; Lewis Nash: drums.