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Josh Nelson: The Sky Remains

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Josh Nelson: The Sky Remains

Josh Nelson on Piano, Nord Electro 3, Vocal
Anthony Wilson on Guitar, Vocal
Josh Johnson on Alto Sax, Flute
Chris Lawrence on Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Brian Walsh on Bb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Larry Goldings on Hammond B3 Organ
Alex Boneham on Bass
Dan Schnelle on Drums
Aaron Serfaty on Percussion
Kathleen Grace on Vocals
Lillian Sengpiehl on Vocals


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 5, 2018

This CD is pianist, Josh Nelson’s homage to Los Angeles, the LA he grew up with. Mr. Nelson imagines the history of his beloved city, the diverse architecture, the bridges and tunnels, the original Pacific Ocean Park, the altruistic heroics of the Pasadena-born Mack Robinson, brother of baseball icon, Jackie, and the stairways, funiculars, streetcars, horses, and trains that serviced transportation, before the freeways and cars. The excellent album notes provide insight into the titles of each of 10 tracks, pointing out that in LA, only “the sky remains”, as the landscape changed.

Mr. Nelson spotlights his piano amidst the ten musicians listed above. Their combined music is both fascinating and purely created. I chose to focus, below, on four tracks with intriguing themes and musicality, although all ten tracks are worth the listening. Additional composers are Joshua Johnson, Russell Garcia, and Elliott Smith. It should be noted that the excellent liner notes include lyrics to each song and comments on the historical inspiration for each title and composition.

Notable tracks:

#4 – The Architect – Composed by Joshua Nelson. Composed as a tribute to Mr. Nelson’s husband, an LA architect, the piece is also intended to evoke imagery of Spanish-style bungalows, the Millennium Grand, and Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall. A lovely, breezy piano theme has inherent sophistication. Josh Johnson’s alto sax solo sours like a skyscraper, into the imaginary sky. Alex Boneham’s bass and Dan Schnelle’s drums are also spotlighted in the track. Repetitive piano phrases drive the percussion.

#8 – Pacific Ocean Park – Composed by Joshua Nelson. This was my favorite track, an homage to what was once described as “the world’s most unique Oceanic Wonderland, with a walk through Neptune’s Kingdom”. Brian Walsh, on clarinet, creates tones of gorgeous, exotic ethnicity, in a retro carnival music motif. This track was so melodic and transporting, but then it fades into enigmatic quietude.

#9 – Run – Composed by Joshua Nelson & Kathleen Grace. This track is a tribute to Mack Brown, who finished second to Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics. Mack’s brother was Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League baseball player. Mack was an activist in Pasadena, fighting against local poverty and crime. Early piano passages glisten like sunbeams. There’s a folk motif to Kathleen Grace’s vocals, with Anthony Wilson’s strumming, understated guitar. The full ensemble merges for surround, orchestral effect. Chris Lawrence’s flugelhorn can be heard with lovely refrains. The piece has lilting lyricism and elegant simplicity.

#10 – Stairways – Composed by Joshua Nelson. This final track is dedicated to the archaic LA stairways that provided uncomplicated modes of transportation. Mr. Nelson writes that over 400 can still be found in the hillside neighborhoods. Mr. Boneham’s bass introduces the track with sparkling, eerie flute intonations. The full ensemble enters with dreamy, atonal fusion. This track has a filmatic motif, evocative of pedestrian, urban travel. Mr. Johnson’s sax and Mr. Lawrence’s trumpet converse, as if in rhythmic steps. Mr. Nelson’s piano theme meanders in pulsating persistence. The album ends in a whisper. A final note, Aaron Serfaty’s percussion, Lillian Sengpiehl’s vocals, and Larry Golding’s Hammond B3 organ all added greatly to the album tracks.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at