MMW: Steve Nelson

Artist: Steve Nelson

Description: Vibraphonist Steve Nelson was born in Wilkinsburg 1955 and began his career during the seventies, in Pittsburgh, His first major influence was Milt Jackson.

“I actually got into the vibes because a young guy that I used to hang around with in Pittsburgh, George Monroe, his father played the vibes.I heard him play and that’s how I fell in love with the instrument.I started with drums around age 15 within two years I was making my first jam sessions around town. After three or four years I started doing gigs around town with local cats. There was a guy that I met in Pittsburgh, Kenny Fisher, a saxophonist. I got into his band. Drummer J.C. Moses who’d played with Trane and Eric Dolphy came home; I did some playing with him. Tommy Turrentine had come back to Pittsburgh around that time, I met him and played with him, Eric Kloss, was around Pittsburgh around that time. I did quite a few jam sessions with him.”

He got a Masters in Music from Rutgers University. “At that time Rutgers was just starting their jazz program and I sat in with some Larry Ridley, Ted Dunbar, Kenny Barron— Eventually wound in Freddie Waits’ band—called Colors Revealed and with Kenny’s band, too. I met James Spaulding there and did a lot of things with him. There was a guy from Pittsburgh, Jerry Byrd who knew Grant Green very well and Grant always used vibes in his band around that period; and his vibes player had broken his leg, or something like that and Jerry recommended me for that gig with Grant. So, I went with Grant and that was kind of my first road experience.”

After a year with Green he was playing and recording with his Rutgers professors James Spaulding and Kenny Barron, before landing a spot in David “Fathead” Newman’s quintet. Throughout the eighties Nelson was the vibist of choice among up-and-comers, including Bobby Watson, Curtis Lundy, James Williams, Mulgrew Miller, Donald Brown, Geoffrey Keezer and Lewis Nash, Plus he playd with Also George Shearing and Jackie McLean. Later influenced by the innovations of Bobby Hutcherson, that led him to a spot in Dave Holland’s band.

These quotes and other info come from

Hear it: “Classics” with Gordon Spencer, Sundays at 3 p.m.

“Steve Nelson-Sound Effect” High Note HCD 7175
“One Thin Dime” w/Mulgrew Miller, p-Peter Washington, ba
“Dave Holland Quintet-Dream of the Elders” ECM CD 1572
“Equality” w/Holland, b-Eric Person, as
“Steve Nelson-Fuller Nelson” Sunnyside CD SSC 1134
“Easy to Love” w/ Kirk Lightsey, p
“Steve Davis-Portrait in Sound” Stretch CD SCD 9027-2
“Samba D” w/ Davis, tb-David Hazeltine,p