Josh Nelson Trio gives Halloween at Xavier a jazzy twist

Newswire photo by Hyehyun Hwang | The Josh Nelson Trio was the next entry in Xavier’s music series.

If there was any event I’ve attended that made me immediately go, “Why aren’t there more people here?” This was it. Saturday night’s performance of the Josh Nelson Trio in the Gallagher Student Center theatre was so grossly under-attended, I had to double-check Nelson’s credentials just to make sure I wasn’t imagining them. He has been touring for over six years and has taught jazz at Soka University and Cal State University Northridge. In 2006, he was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. He has multiple albums with jazz compositions of his own creation under his belt, including his 2004 debut album Anticipation and his “love letter to Los Angeles,” The Sky Remains. Additionally, Jazz Series Coordinator Polina Bespalko was sure to include the fact that he was in the hit film La La Land and has performed on NPR’s Jazz Night in America.

So what gives? Shortly after taking a seat, I scanned the area. Less than half of the theatre was filled, and the spots that were consisted of older jazz fans. Once in a while I spotted the head of a student, a music major. Maybe younger people aren’t as into jazz as they were a few decades ago, but that’s no excuse when one recalls the full house drawn by last year’s McBride trio.

After Nelson’s introduction, he walked to the stage bass player Alex Baumann and drummer Dan Schnell. Without a word of introduction, Nelson immediately began to play rolling scales: “Introspection on 401,” an original composition from his 2007 album. The song stands out as a strong example of the beauty of jazz. The complex piece carries an ominous mood created by a steady left hand and a descending melody, especially in the beginning.

In a one-on-one interview with him, Nelson said, “They had some mixed meter. It goes between four, and three, and five, four time and that one’s taken us a little while to get together, because it’s just a hard tune.” Indeed, listeners can observe rapidly changing melodies and percussion throughout the piece. As the title suggests, the quick staccato of notes helps paint the image of an “architect” constructing something with countless elements from the ground up. Unfortunately, there was a tiny slip-up I was able to pick on—a moment where perhaps the musicians fell out of sync, or the loud melody momentarily fell into an undistinguished mumble. Even Nelson himself implied, “We had a good performance, not our best, but a very good one.

Josh Nelson is by no means “just another” jazz musician. He is aiming for bigger and better than the steakhouse jazz gigs he did in his 20s. As someone who was, according to Jazz Night in America, “nearly Ryan Gosling’s hand double,” the jazz pianist has the potential to offer a great amount to the music world in general, and it’s a shame that more Xavier students and faculty couldn’t be witnesses to it.

By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Copy Editor~