Steve Nelson: New Beginning
Steve Nelson (vibes)
Live Session, Vol. 1 (Red 123231-2)
Donald Brown (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), Victor Lewis (drums).
Composed by Steve Nelson.
Recorded: live at the Acireale Jazz Festival, Acireale, Italy, July 1989
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
Steve Nelson has been quite visible as the vibraphonist in Dave Holland's Quintet and Big Band since the mid-'90s, yet has had surprisingly few opportunities to record as a leader. Having paid his dues as a sideman going back to the 1970s, perhaps now with his most recent well-received release Sound-Effect Nelson will, in his 50s, finally get to move center-stage for good.
When Nelson performed with his group at the 6th Acireale Jazz Festival in Italy in 1989, it appeared that the sky was the limit for him and his saxophonist Bobby Watson, both hot up-and-comers at the time. Their high-energy sets (there is a Live Session, Vol. 2) did not disappoint. The nearly 12-minute "New Beginning" starts with Nelson's and Watson's unison delivery of the alluring, upbeat theme. Nelson's extended solo is expertly paced and structured, one of his most outstanding recorded improvisations, jubilant and absorbing throughout. His swift, gliding lines and supercharged liftoffs on the turnarounds are particular highlights. Watson follows in his usual extroverted manner, his boppish phrases executed with flair through his piercing tone. His exuberant playing here comes out of the Phil Woods and Richie Cole school of intense bop/hard bop. Brown's rousing solo keeps up the pace, spurred on by Lundy's rock-solid basslines and Lewis's propulsive accents. Brown's superb comping, it must be added, along with the uplifting support of Lundy and Lewis help inspire Nelson and Watson to the heights during their respective solos. This was a tight band for the short time it lasted, probably assembled just for the European festival circuit that summer.
Reviewer: Scott Albin