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Spotlight Project: Anthony E. Nelson Jr. Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak

Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak
Anthony E. Nelson Jr.
Musicstand Records

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Multi-instrumentalist Anthony E. Nelson Releases SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK Available July 25, 2016 on Music Stand Records

Anthony E. Nelson Jr. is a busy, in-demand multi-reed instrumentalist in the New York City area. SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK, his fourth CD as a leader, is his most personal project yet.

Nelson is joined on SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK by musicians who are at the top of their game. They are all well-established on the New York jazz scene and are leaders in their own right as well as accompanists for a Who’s Who of the top names in jazz. The band includes Brandon McCune on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, Chris Beck on drums, Bruce Williams on alto sax, and Josh Evans on trumpet. According to Nelson, “I am blessed to have musicians of this caliber in my corner. We have strong connections both musically and spiritually.”

Nelson is not only an accomplished musician, he is also a superb composer. He penned and arranged all 12 compositions on this CD. Two of the songs, “Isaiah 40:31” and “Psalms 150:6,” were recorded live at Shiloh Baptist Church in November 2014 at a show for Jazz in The Sanctuary, just two days before the band went into the studio to complete the recording. Nelson planned on using these recordings only as a reference, but he felt they helped to complete the message of this musical offering.

Nelson’s music is reminiscent of the post-bop era with a strong swing and blues feel throughout. You can clearly hear the influence of the musicians who have affected Nelson’s music, like Coltrane on “Fully Come,” a deeply meditative and soulful track on which Nelson plies his tenor sax, or the title piece, “Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak," which sounds like it could have come from the Jazz Messenger’s oeuvre, while “I’ll Be A Fool” is strongly influenced by Cedar Walton’s compositional style.

But the main influence and source of inspiration for Nelson is his deep Christian faith. Indeed, he calls his music “gospel jazz.” Each of these songs is inspired by a biblical verse. For example, Nelson says about “Peter’s First Step,” “This composition is based on Matthew 16:13-19. It’s really about what God does when we pray and listen first!” Of “Never Too Late,” Nelson says, “This piece is based on John 11:1-44 in which Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. We should hear hope in this composition. We should also hear Jesus being rushed, yet taking his time, knowing that nothing is too late!” While “Consider It All Joy” is based on James 1:2. “Once again, this is a song of hope that is purposefully placed right after “Blessed Are Those That Mourn.” This composition begins with a bass line that moves with a melody placed over it that is less complex. The concept is one of joy despite what may be happening.” Even though Nelson’s compositions are informed by his deep faith, his music can be enjoyed by any lover of jazz whatever their spiritual outlook.

Nelson is a native and resident of Plainfield, N.J. Married with four children ranging in age from two to 18 years old, Nelson grew up in a Christian household where music was central to his life. With an uncle who was a first call gospel choir arranger and composer, Nelson first picked up the alto sax when he was 11 years old and never stopped studying and expanding his musical horizons, first at the Jazz Institute of N.J. where he was mentored by organist Radam Schwartz, then at the University of the District of Columbia, and finally at William Paterson University where he studied with Gary Smulyan and Vincent Herring. Nelson has been the clarinetist in Regina Carter’s touring band and has performed with T.S. Monk, Steve Turre, and many others. He is currently working and recording with pianist James Weidman as a member of "James Weidman's Slave Songs Ensemble,” a quintet that presents arrangements of historic slave songs and music of the Reconstruction era. He is also currently working with drummer Winard Harper & Jeli Posse, and he serves as an "Artist in Residence" as the woodwind specialist (saxophones, flutes, clarinets, and oboe) for the United Jazz Foundation under the leadership of Dion Parson. The artist in residency allows Nelson to offer private lessons to students in St. Thomas and St. Croix that otherwise would not have access to private lessons of the sorts readily available to students on the mainland of the USA.

A musician, composer, and arranger, Nelson is a talent that deserves much wider recognition. SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK is a heartfelt project that combines gospel spirituality with post-bop jazz that is by turns meditative, swinging, and hard driving.

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