Only a native like Josh Nelson could explore his next destination: right where he lives in the always sunny, fractionated L.A. The L.A.-bred and –based jazz pianist and composer has been musically exploring parts known and unknown since detouring from his standards with the release of the dreamy, experimental sci-fi thriller Discoveries, an album that effectively launched his solo career in 2011.
Recently under Nelson’s multi-media Discovery Project, audiences have been able to experience the immersive, surround-sound rush of exotic spaces such as Mars (based in large part on his Exploring Mars album, released early this year). Usually, Nelson’s Discovery band includes guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Dave Robaire, drummer Dan Schnelle, clarinetist Brian Walsh, and a host of vocalists he’s worked with before on gigs and/or recordings.
Coming up November 13-14, 9 p.m., Nelson returns to a favorite artsy haunt — downtown L.A.’s Blue Whale — to present his new Discovery Project: The Sky Remains/Exploring the Past, Present, and Future of Los Angeles. His usual cohorts will join him, plus Exploring Mars’ vocalist Kathleen Grace and classical singer Lillian Sengpiehl, Travis Flournoy on live video, and Jesse Ottinger and Claudia Carballada handling the accompanying art installation.
Nelson and his musicians will perform an appropriate soundtrack for the occasion while the imagery (in photos and videos) will play simultaneously on the beat of the composer’s narrative, according to script. For the L.A.-inspired installation, the imagery will flow over with historical footage. Nelson relied heavily on the expertise of Robert Petersen (“The Hidden History of Los Angeles” podcast) for this edition of the Discovery Project.
“Oh, Los Angeles. What a love/hate relationship we all have with this city,” Nelson detailed in a recent release. “I’m a native Angeleno, well a Long Beach-ian to be exact. I happen to love the Southland more than hate it. I find myself at LACMA all the time, in Griffith Park on a hike or at the Observatory.
“It’s a city full of dichotomies. Natural beauty living right next to urban beauty. The history of the region has always fascinated me. Growing up the son of a Disney Imagineer in the ‘80s and ‘90s (and the grandson of an aerospace engineer), I could observe how entertainment and science shaped the Southland.
“This presentation is right up my alley, as I enjoy delving into the ’50s and ’60s, an era I did not witness personally, but always felt like I was born into. I collect old 8 mm films, classic ViewMaster reels, vintage ‘Classics Illustrated’ comics, magazines, and other ephemera from the classic years of the mid-20th century.
“So bring it on, L.A.! Did you know the St. Francis Dam Disaster of 1928 ended the great William Mulholland’s career with the city? That will be explored in our show, along with this historic drought we are currently dealing with. Care to revisit the old eerie and surreal ghost of Pacific Ocean Park, POP? The Griffith Park carousel? How about the beautiful staircases around East L.A.?”
Bring it, Josh Nelson!
Cover: $15 pre-sale — Brown Paper Tickets, $20 at the door. Call (213) 620-0908 for reservations.