Meridian Arts Ensemble trumpeter Jon Nelson has released "Gran Calavera Electrica," his debut CD recording as a solo artist. The disc culminates Nelson's long admiration of Latin music and culture and further exploration away from the "standards" of the repertoire for trumpet. Nelson performed in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Colombia with the Meridian Arts Ensemble, made several trips to Cuba and also lived in Mexico City for one year. He states, "In all Latin countries, you can walk down the street and enjoy music being played in the street, by very fine musicians. I always wanted to bring some of those places back home with me and incorporate them into a classical music setting."
Co-produced by Stephen Barber (and released on his Sunken Gong label) the recording features the varied styles of each composer from Nelson's solo interpretation of Luciano Berio's landmark "Sequenza X for Trumpet and Resonance Piano" an exploration of contemporary trumpet writing; commissioned works of Gustavo Matamoros's "Re: Jon" that among its many elements includes a field recording of a Masonic procession in Port au Prince, Haiti and Emil Harnas 2nd's composition written specifically for the trio of Nelson, pianist Helen Bugallo and cellist Jonathan Golove. Morton Feldman's "A Very Short Trumpet Piece" was written in the last year of his life when he was ill with cancer and knew the end was near. Stephen Barber's "Gran Calavera Electrica" is based on a woodcut by artist/lithographer Jose Posada whose work reflects the everyday life and folklore of 20th Century Mexico (the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos being a frequent subject). The piece is in five movements with veiled instrumental references to Frank Zappa.
Stephen Barber has received commissions from The Meridian Arts Ensemble, The Czech Radio Orchestra, N.Y. Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble, and the Folk State Ensemble of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He has collaborated with the David Byrne, ZZ Top, Keith Richards, Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, Josef Zawinul, Willie Nelson, Salif Keita, Arto Linsay, Ute Lemper, Alejandro Escovedo, National Geographic Explorer, BBC Natural History Unit, and the Trakia Folk Ensemble. In addition Barber has received a BBC Wild Screen Award for his score, "Islands of the Fire Goddess" and an ACE Nomination for best score "Faerie Tale Theatre's Three Little Pigs."
Active as a performer, arranger, producer and collaborator, Jon Nelson has served as principal trumpet for the Festival Orchestra d'Aix en Provence in France under the direction of Pierre Boulez. He has been a member of the Atlantic Brass Quintet, and has also worked with Milton Babbitt and Frank Zappa. His arrangements have been performed and recorded by the Cologne Stadt Ballet, the Ethos Percussion Group, and Dweezil Zappa; he has recorded for Channel Classics, Barking Pumpkin, BMG/RCA, Bridge, Cuniform, Peer, New World, Vandenburg, and CRI. Nelson holds a B.M. from The Juilliard School where he studied with Mark Gould. Jon Nelson is also a University at Buffalo faculty member.