Thursday, February 23, 2012
Bon Tempe - Profiles in Cacophony: Nellie
Nobody knows where Nellie came from, how long he's been here (on planet earth) or how long he plans to stay. We only know that he is here now and for that we are deeply and profoundly indebted. First, to the best of our knowledge he might be the only guitar player that goes by Nellie, or Nelle, and that includes the Red Headed Stranger who, while he might occasionally go by Stray, has never been known to go by Bill and certainly not Nellie or even Nelle. The other Bill Nelson of Be-Bop Deluxe with whom Nellie is often mistakenly confused isn't known to go by any nicknames in fact these days he isn't known to go by anything at all. So we are not only thankful and indebted but also fairly confident that Nelle won't disappear due to a case of mistaken identity. The other perhaps more reliable reason to be confident is that nobody, on planet earth or elsewhere in the known or unknown universe, plays the guitar like Nelman. If you can think of somebody that does then you either haven't been listening carefully or more likely are dealing in very very broad generalities like yes it's an amplified six string instrument. And there the similarities end.That's because Nelle will tell you that back when he was practicing 8 hours a day (I know this to be a fact because we shared an apartment on Mountain View near Jewel St. in San Raffiyell that was originally Jeff Manson's pad but morphed into me and Nellie and a host of fucking weirdos parading through the third bedroom) he didn't try and cop the riffs of other guitars players, rather he tried to turn the guitar into a saxophone, or at least phrase his lead playing like Coltrane or Wayne Shorter or trumpeters like Lee Morgan and Miles, and phrase his rhythm playing more like the approach a jazz pianist would use to comp with his left hand. The main thing was that Nellie wasn't trying to be the next Pat Methane or Al Dimwittedola he would rather some young comely nugget would approach him after the gig and say something like "wow I recognized that Mile riff you threw in there how about a blow job?" (Honestly if I had known that trying to imitate Miles on the bass would inspire such a lovely response I would have been playing Nefertiti while scampering around the apartment naked on all fours too!)
Senor Nelman is the musical leader of Bon Tempe, much to the chagrin of the horners and especially Albondigas who doesn't like to get his meat masticated. Nellie himself may not like to admit it but, besides Bob Akers, the mysterious and peripheral alto sexist/flutist who at one time joined the navy so he could get to play music AND carry a gun (nirvana for some though few of them are free to mingle with the law-abiding population), he is the only professional musician. In other words he is the only member of Bon Tempe who makes his living solely from playing music, and in Nellie's case, it literally is performing music - not sitting in some home studio with a monitor and a box of kleenex but out there playing whatever stringed instrument is required for that gig: upright bass, electric bass, guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukelele shit I think he told me he played a Greek wedding on bazooki! Yep Nelman is a New York City local whateverthefuck dues-payin' union man, making scale from gig to gig. It's true he has the chops to be a jazz great and he is a jazz great only thing is only me and now you know about it. Albondigas would even admit it! But a recording artist Nelman is not - Charlie Parker has more recordings out there than our man Nellie!
So next time you have the pleasure of hearing Nellie Nelle Nelman light up whatever stringed instrument he happens to be lighting up - SaturdayMarch 3rd it will be eclectic guitar - pay close attention. Bring your little digital recorder and commit a few of his solos to posterity because until the next time Nelman is in town you won't hear anything like it! Again, Albondigas, despite his undying lust for Nellie's furry butt, would admit that he usually whips out something so fuckin' jaw-dropping that all you can do is shake your head in wonderment. Pretty good for a guy some people call Nellie or even Nelle but usually Nelz. And, on rare occasions, Bill. But don't tell anybody!