When asked for a bio, he submits: “Matt Nelson is a musician, bass player and improviser based in Knoxville, Tennessee.” Fortunately, for all of us, his lack of florid self-description is countered by a broad eloquence on the acoustic upright bass, his primary instrument.
For years Nelson has been the hinge pin of Knoxville’s experimental improv scene. His weekly Out Series at the Pilot Light, which brings together local improv stalwarts with outsider musicians from disparate corners of the creative woodwork, is a jewel and well kept secret of Knoxville’s underground scene. Nelson appears everywhere, playing with classical ensembles, jazz combos, and rock bands—but where Nelson’s artistry shines most is in solo performance. His lyrical improvisations are brought out of the instrument with a near supernatural touch and a masterfully expressive timbral vocabulary; in one moment pulling the air from the room with uncomfortable tension, then bursting forth in beautifully warm, unexpected colors.
At Big Ears, Nelson’s performance will be a solo set, followed by a duo performance with bassist Evan Lipson.