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Steve Nelson: Fuller Nelson

Fuller Nelson (Sunnyside) is the sequel to 1989’s Full Nelson, which marked vibist Steve Nelson’s leader debut. This follow-up was recorded in 1998, with the same rhythmic backing as the previous album-pianist Kirk Lightsey and bassist Ray Drummond-but wasn’t released until 2004. It was worth the wait. Nelson is more introspective than he was in ’89, and these tunes allow for more reflection.

The vibist lavishes his delicate touch on ballads like “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You,” allowing ample opportunity for respectful interplay. When Nelson solos, he and Lightsey fill gaps without stepping on each other’s ideas. When Lightsey plays, Nelson cuts out completely, and Drummond knows how to maneuver around either or both of his band mates. Lem Winchester’s “Minor Blues” is a polite swinger with an interesting minor-mode construction. Lightsey’s “Heaven Dance” devilishly alternates between 5/4 and 3/4. Sammy Cahn’s “The Second Time Around” is such a surprisingly effective swinger; more instrumentalists should explore it.

Originally Published