He was a trumpeter, teacher, producer and photographer born in San Antonio, Texas, who studied bio-acoustic music at Rice University and became a professional musician and private teacher in and around Houston in 1969.
Specialising in big band music he moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s and performed as a member of The Glenn Miller Orchestra on their 1972 re-recording of Miller standards, The Best of the Glenn Miller Orchestra in Stereo.
Bill Chase recommended him to Woody Herman, and he subsequently became a trumpeter with Woody Herman & The Thundering Herd. One of the first albums he did with them was Children of Lima, recorded in 1974 and 1975.
Around this time, Nelson paid it forward by recommending composer/trumpeter Allen Vizzutti to Herman. Herman was initially unconvinced, so Nelson made a tape of Vizzutti’s music, and the sale was closed. Nelson would go on to appear on a string of Woody Herman albums: Herd at Montreux, King Cobra, Woody Herman and His Big Band in Poland, Road Father, Together: Flip and Woody, and Chick, Donald, Walter & Woodrow.
In 1979, he hooked up with the Louie Bellson Big Band on Dynamite!, and appeared with Bob Florence on Live at Concerts by the Sea and Frank Sinatra on his boxed set, Trilogy. The 1980s found him collaborating with Les Hooper on Raisin’ the Roof, Bob Florence on Magic Time, and Doug Cameron on Freeway Mentality. His last original recording was released on Simone’s 1996 Christmas album, 25 De Diciembre.
Other CD-sized stocking stuffers abound, in the form of Bob Bailey’s Looking Forward, Neil Norman’s Sci-Fi in Hi-Fi, and Flip Phillips’ Smooth as Silk. Anthologies such as RCA Victor 80thAnniversary, however, might look better under the tree.
As a producer he worked on a TV advert about cars featuring Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”.
He died in Glendale, California, after suffering a stroke following heart surgery. He was 51 years old.
He performs on the piccolo trumpet here in a performance of “Pavane” by Woody Herman…