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December 1999

Steve Nelson Quartet
New Beginnings
TCB

Vibist Steve Nelson made a big splash as a newcomer in the jazz polls at the end of the '80s, but since the market and the media have a short attention span, he soon returned to the routine of being a jazz musician, teaching, gigging, and making an occasional record. Hopefully, New Beginnings lives up to its name, as it is the type of record that can prompt a new focus on a underdecorated veteran: it exemplifies the combination of mature craftsmanship and youthful vigor necessary to make cogent mainstream jazz.

Leading a blue-chip quartet composed of pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Kenny Washington, Nelson gets the program off to a strong start with three originals that meld a firm sense of swing with smart harmonic twists. The remainder of the album is composed of plum tunes by the likes of Jobim, Berlin, and Carmichael, with Lem Winchester's funky (in the late '50s sense of the word) "Down Fuzz" thrown in as a wild card.

Throughout the date, the interplay within the quartet is engaging, and all hands contribute solid solos. New Beginnings is a substantial addition to Steve Nelson's discography.

Originally published in December 1999
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