They call it a Philly Tip," says master drummer Alan Nelson, reflecting on his history and musical roots. "It's a certain kind of swing -- a certain sound that players seem to have that come out of this region."

"The Philadelphian was actually born in Camden, New Jersey. But since his arrival as a young boy to the City of Brotherly Love, he's continued to follow in the footsteps of so many jazz greats like John Coltrane, the Heath Brothers, Jimmy Garrison and countless others.

But if you think you can typecast Nelson in regional terms-guess again. Since the seventies the percussion man has made so many hundreds of club dates and concerts in New York City with people like James Moody,

Shirley Scott and Sonny Stitt, that one might have to invent a new category for him like "Philly Yorker." "I probably know every pot hole and bump on the Jersey Turnpike," Nelson grins, "I've made the journey so many times." The journey to the world of jazz drumming started for Nelson at the age of eight. He recalls: "I began in music as a tap dancer and then went on to African dance. The only reason I stopped was because all the male teachers were gay and back then the negative pressure from my peers kind of got to me and made me stop."

The restless ex-African dancer went on to play the hand drums for about six years. At the age of sixteen, friend and mentor Norman Conners encouraged the teenager to switch over to trap drums. It was also at this phase in his life that he started to soak up the influences of the great jazz drummers like Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones and most of all, Max Roach. "Max had a very melodic way of expressing himself," explains Nelson. "It was like he was playing a tune. It was very dynamic. ' Nelson's career took a dynamic turn in 1974. After gigging locally in and around Philadelphia, he landed a summer job in New York with bassist Cecil McBee. It was then that a maturing, confident Nelson would work with people like Hilton Ruiz, George Adams and Onaje Allan Gumbs, thus securing his place in the New York jazz hierarchy. It was also at this time that he began a twelve year association with trumpeter Hannibal Marvin Peterson. The Peterson gig would take the master drummer to all points on the globe and add a seasoning and a sensitivity to his playing that has kept his services in demand for the better part of two decades.

Saxophonists, pianists and bass players seek out Nelson for his intense energy and hyper-sensitivity. Vocalists, on the other hand, want the Philadelphian on the bandstand behind them for a different set of requisites. "Singers don't want the drummer to get too much in the way," analyzes Nelson. "So my approach is just to swing and be tasty. You have to put the dress on her," he chuckles, "and maybe put the shoes on her too."

In January of 1998, Nelson got a call from his former band mate Michael Cochrane. His old friend explained the concept behind Lines=of=Reason. "Michael and I are like old rope dogs," smiles Nelson. "So when he called it felt very comfortable. When I look back over jazz history, for me, it was the bands that played together a lot that seemed to be saying the most."

"It's great when everybody contributes and everyone's relaxed because that adds to a groove and spontaneity. I guess you could say it's like the whole thing adds up to the sum of its parts."

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