Alva Nelson Resume

Pianist/composer/arranger/producer Alva Nelson has played the Montreux Jazz Festival, North Sea Festival and led his own group at NYC's Blue Note. He has performed with Lightnin' Hopkins, Kirk Whalum, David “Fathead” Newman, Arnett Cobb, Phyllis Hyman, Regina Belle, and Eddie Harris—to name just a few.
From the beginning music had a strong spiritual pull on Nelson. The son of a Pentecostal minister, he was exposed to music at an early age—and his dad had a profound impact. However, as a youth, Nelson avoided playing in church.
Pursuing jazz seriously, Nelson was mentored by his high school teacher, the renowned Conrad O. Johnson at Houston's Kashmere High School (voted “Best High School Jazz Band in the Nation” in 1972.) Nelson studied at Sam Houston State University, and was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship to study with saxophonist Billy Harper in New York City. (He'd receive a second NEA Fellowship to study in LA with flutist Hubert Laws several years later.) It is not without coincidence that these two gentlemen, Harper & Laws, are Houston natives
In New York little more than a year, Nelson received his first of three “Meet the Composer” Grants. He debuted his original compositions at the Blue Note, won 1st Place in the Composers' Guild Composition Contest with “Synonymous Dichotomy” ('83); “Buster's Bounce” ('85) and “Tranquil Jubilation ('88.) He joined the Boy's Choir of Harlem, where he toured Europe and Japan. And for nearly seven years he arranged and orchestrated music for the choir's performances, including Carnegie Hall & Alice Tully Hall with Wynton Marsalis and Kathleen Battle; with Hubert Laws and the St. Luke's Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta. Alva's arrangement of Amazing Grace” for the Boys' Choir of Harlem, was featured on Bill Moyer's' PBS Special, “Amazing Grace.”
Alva formed the Pyramyd Dance Theatre, dedicated to exploring the music and dance of West Africa. He was selected as a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, and was awarded his third grant from “Meet the Composer,” in support of his Afrykhan Khaneckshun Orchestra, presenting his “West Afrykhan Sweet” at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Festival.
Alva has been a musical director and/or arranger for theater companies nationwide; for productions including “Ain't Misbehavin'”, “Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill”, “Sam Cooke, Forever Mr. Soul,” “A Brief History of White Music” and “…Love, Langston”. He was the musical director for the national tour of “Black Broadway” & assistant musical director for the “If This Hat Could Talk” tour.
Having become a producer, Nelson is proud of his new artist Dorothy Leigh & her new CD, A Second Chance (Whitley Productions, Inc.) On this very fine collection of ten original songs (Nelson wrote three) Alva arranges all of the music & conducts the 16-piece orchestra. Ms Leigh has another jazz-duo CD, comprised of all jazz standards, entitled “Intimate Moments”, also produced by Alva that is due out soon. Nelson has his own two releases to date, African Suite & Soul Eyes. He has appeared on recordings by Lonnie Plaxico, Robin Eubanks, Juanita Fleming & others. Over the years, after countless performances with practically every type of ensemble, music is still an extremely powerful spiritual force in Nelson's life. “I am honored in that I feel as though I was chosen by this force to share love, spread joy, inspire hope, and motivate faith with all who are open to my conversation.” And from everything we've heard so far, there will certainly be quite a few people who will want to engage in this conversation.

Updated:  January 9, 2011

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