Mobile native Dennis Nelson, shown at one of his many BayFest appearances, will hold a release party for his latest album on Saturday. (Press-Register file photo)
Dennis "Finger Roll" Nelson isn’t just ready to share some new music with fans. He’s ready to share a whole new direction.
That Nelson has a new project won’t surprise many, in and of itself. A jazz guitarist who’s never been shy about letting his rock roots show, he’s always tended to have a lot of irons in the fire. In addition to his performing schedule, he’s also produced his own TV show and movie in recent years. Even at BayFest, he tends to show up for multiple sets.
What might raise some eyebrows is the fact that the album Nelson will release at a show on Saturday reflects a new spiritual dimension to Nelson’s music. It sums up a change he’s gradually been making for years now. Titled "Give Me a Clean Heart," it’s an exploration of inspirational jazz.
Nelson said the impulse for the album goes back at least a couple of years, to his feelings after the death of his mother.
"I played ‘Amazing Grace’ at the funeral," he said. "At that moment, everybody was crying. Something just took over."
He’d always believed there was a spiritual element to his music, because he believes talents are God-given. But now he decided to make that element more prominent.
It’s a tricky concept. If jazz is mostly instrumental, how can it really convey a specific spiritual message? Nelson gets the question, but says the answer has to do mostly with the way a performer approaches a song.
"To me, they’re all spiritual," he said. "When blues singers sing, they’re singing from their soul."
"My ideas flow totally differently," he said. "Every song that I play is very emotional."
Nelson describes "Give Me a Clean Heart" as an eclectic album, one that encompasses his full stylistic range. Tracks range from an acoustic take on "Blessed Assurance" to a full Latin band on Santana’s "Europa," which has long been one of Nelson’s signature songs.
"It really shows all of my styles," said Nelson. "This is the first album that really completes me as an artist. You can hear the melody of the spiritual songs, but my Finger Roll twist, that’s what’s going to get ’em."
Nelson will celebrate the release of the album with a concert Saturday, July 12, at The Bright Spot. The venue is part of the Mount Hebron Church Ministries Life Center at 251 Berkley Ave., on the I-65 Beltline at Exit 8. Doors open at 5 p.m. for the 6 p.m. show, which will feature vocalist Yvonne Matthews, Gino Rosaria and Jarron Snell on keyboards, Chris Snowden on bass and Rickey Duffy Jr. on drums. Tickets are $15; for information, call 251-463-6106.
The album will be available through www.DennisFingerRollNelson.com. Check the site for availability through other outlets.
Nelson said that he hopes the album helps him break through to bigger gospel and jazz festivals. But he also has a more personal expectation.
"I hope this music empowers people," he said. "Every time I play it, something good always happens."
"This music will brighten your day," he said. "You’ll feel good to play this music, because it’ll touch you."Tags: concert, movie, music, release, singer, tv