Born and raised in Southern California pianist-composer-bandleader Josh Nelson has performed with some of the most respected names in jazz, including Kurt Elling, John Pizzarelli, Benny Golson, Sheila Jordan, John Clayton, George Mraz, Jeff Hamilton, Dave Koz, Joe Chambers and Peter Erskine.
Nelson toured with legendary vocalist Natalie Cole for six years and continues to tour with vocalists Gaby Moreno, Freda Payne, Alicia Olatuja, Sara Gazarek, accordionist Richard Galliano, saxophonist Tom Scott, multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and violinist Christian Howes. He taught jazz for four years at Soka University and more recently at Cal State University Northridge. In 2006, Nelson was a semi-finalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.
His debut album as a leader, 2004’s Anticipation, garnered attention while his 2007 followup, Let it Go, was hailed by Jazz Times, All About Jazz and Jazz Review as a fully-realized breakthrough album. Nelson’s next album, 2009’s I Hear a Rhapsody, had him re-imagining Jerry Goldsmith’s “Theme From Chinatown,” Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Here’s That Rainy Day” and Elliott Smith’s “Everything Means Nothing To Me” while contributing seven affecting originals.
With 2011’s sci-fi influenced Discoveries, Nelson introduced his Discovery Project, an immersive multi-media presentation combining video, performance art, light and art installations with his original music.
He followed with another ambitious Discovery Project in 2015’s Exploring Mars, which wedded evocative musical themes to spectacular NASA/JPL video footage of the Red Planet.
Nelson’s latest, 2017’s The Sky Remains, is his love letter to Los Angeles. The third in his Discovery Project series, it unearths hidden gems and little-known stories about the composer’s hometown. From the lurid tale behind benefactor and namesake of L.A.’s famous Griffith Park to the sad transition of wondrous Pacific Ocean Park to an eyesore on the beach to the forgotten, bittersweet story of Mack Robinson. A silver medal winner in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (coming in second to Jesse Owens), Mack was also the brother of baseball legend Jackie Robinson and later became a hero in his own right through his civic activism on behalf of the City of Angels. The Sky Remains blends narrative and music in persuasive fashion. Throughout this ambitious outing, Nelson and his talented crew of fellow Angelenos convey sentiment about the city and its treasures while uncovering lost history and acknowledging a few L.A. icons along the way. “I’m definitely in awe of what’s in this city and its quiet history,” says the prolific composer. “Maybe it’s just a product of having been born here, but I’m discovering new things and stories about it that were just sitting right under my nose. And I’m hoping that people who hear these stories might be interested in learning more about the fascinating history of Los Angeles.