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Alva Nelson

Alva Nelson

Alva Nelson

What artists do you feel akin to or in the same tribe with?

Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, George Duke, Stevie Wonder, Count Basie, Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, James Brown, Oscar Peterson, EWF

Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?

My Father. Even though being a Sanctified preacher made it difficult to accept the notion that I chose to pursue the music profession, as time passed, my dad began to see that we weren’t all that different in spreading our message of peace & love & inspiring others to live life to the fullest with high moral integrity. The relationship between my father not unlike the one depicted in the 1958 film “St. Louis Blues” starring Nat King Cole as W.C. Handy with Juano Hernandez as his Pentecostal preacher father.

It was interesting going to church watching & listening to my father preach in his James Brown-like fashion, the congregation getting filled with the spirit, singing & shouting. I once experienced that feeling as a teen, while listening to a modern day “Griot” tell a musical story. That night in a jazz club, I got filled with the musical spirit & I jumped up & screamed having been inspired by the musical eloquence of one Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.

What would you define as the most life-changing event so far in your musical career?

When I was in college, I was performing in an outdoor concert with Texas Bluesman legend Lightnin’ Hopkins. In the middle of a song, he stopped the band & roughly said; “everybody get off the stage “ceptin’ the piano player!” & he & I commenced to playing the blues. If I didn’t know before then, I now realized what my calling was.

At what point in your life did you make the decision to become a professional musician and actually record your own albums?

It was spiritually decided for me when I was very young & when I came of age, it was a natural progression. One cannot choose this profession, it must be chosen for you. Be sure to heed the call. But I should mention that, being mentored by Conrad Johnson at Houston’s Kashmere High School, being a part of the Kashmere Stage Band pretty much sealed the deal.

The Kashmere HS Stage Band of the 1970’s was the very best high school band EVER! And “Prof” was the greatest music educator & molder of men ever. Just Google the Kashmere Stage Band & see.

Going back in your life as far as you can remember, what song or performance is the first you recall hearing and being affected by?

One day when I was 15, I was outside shooting hoops with my boys. I ran inside to go to the bathroom, & on the way back outside, as I passed by the television set, there was this guy playing the piano. What I noticed was that he seemed to be a very big man, seemingly big enough to play in the NFL. Anyway, I kept trying to go back outside to play & I just couldn’t seem to tear myself away from the B&W TV set. My mom, while ironing clothes had been there watching me watch him.

I sometimes wonder what she might have been thinking watching me fascinated by this man’s playing. Here he was, sweating profusely, just making the piano do his bidding & I couldn’t stop watching. My best analogy was simply; if the piano was his woman, & he was making love to her, she must be a very happy woman. I can see her smiling now. I said to myself “That’s the way I wanna be able to play”. His name was Oscar Peterson.

If you were magically allowed to spend an hour with whomever you chose in history… alive or dead… and really be able to get inside their head, who would that be?

Malcolm X, MLK, Marcus Garvey, Frederick Douglas, Paul Robeson, Haile Selassie, Harriet Tubman, Etc., Etc., Take Your Pick

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