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Matt Nelson Trio: Nostalgiamaniac

Alex Marianyi By

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According to The Oxford English Dictionary, nostalgia is defined as "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past," and a maniac is "an obsessive enthusiast." Chicago pianist Matt Nelson embodies both qualities on Nostalgiamaniac. The sentimentality of his ballad playing and the keen musical citation of past generations of jazz musicians clearly display the conversation he's having with his own past, and his dedication to music.

Without losing momentum in his constant foray into modernity, Nelson manages to remain firmly rooted in the rich tradition of jazz piano playing, at times sounding like a 1960s-era Herbie Hancock and at other times sounding like a current-day Brad Mehldau. He also accomplishes this by finding a stable blend of more contemporary sounding, ECM-like tunes ("Lady Luna," "Revisited") and straight-up, hard-swingin' tracks ("Compliments," "Dave's Blues"). Nelson maintains the balance by revealing his personal side through "Matthew My Boy," a song that his father wrote for him many years ago, and the maniac side with the opening track, "Infatuation."

At a superficial glance, Nostalgiamaniac can seem to get bogged down by Nelson playing nearly every moment of this lengthy album. Further review, however, reveals a continual reinvention of his playing, in order to remain compelling from start to its finish. While his accompaniment can, at times, be distracting, such as behind Graham Czach's bass solo on "Lady Luna," it's always extremely sympathetic to the soloist's cause.

With the trio's obvious command over its more delicate playing, it's easy, at times, to overlook the unbelievable technique on the more rhythmically agitated tunes like "Infatuation" or "The Epitome." Czach and drummer Matt Nischan seem to have no problem keeping the beat elastic and playful even at brisk tempos. Not only do they weave a supportive fabric for Nelson to rest on for his own improvisations, each of them also adds their own imaginative solo work, Nischan especially so on "Dave's Blues."

With this debut, Nelson and his trio have carved out a nice spot for themselves in the Chicago jazz scene. By remaining true to the tradition of jazz, they have managed to find fertile ground for their growth and expansion into what looks like a promising future.

Track Listing: Infatuation; Closing the Door; Quiet Love (and Sunshine); The Epitome; Lady Luna; Longing For...; Revisited; Compliments; Matthew My Boy; Dave's Blues; Alternate Antioch; The Art of Suppression.

Personnel: Matt Nelson: piano; Graham Czach: bass; Matt Nischan: drums.

Title: Nostalgiamaniac | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Chicago Sessions

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