Leland Nelson is an electric and upright bassist hailing from Fort Wayne, IN. Born into a musical family, his formative years were steeped in the sounds of jazz, soul, gospel, and classical, among other styles. His journey as a bass player began in junior high and was quickly propelled to the level of local professional by high school age. Only a matter of weeks into his freshman year, Leland had already been given the honor of performing at the Detroit International Jazz Festival with the Downbeat Award-winning ensemble, the Brandon Porter Quartet.
With regard to other notable accomplishments during high school, Leland had his first recording studio experience in L.A. at Studio770. There, he and other musicians from across the states produced Distant Friends, a collaborative jazz project. He later performed with the Sweetwater Jazz Project at the New York City Jazz Festival in 2013. Leland gigged with the same group in Fort Wayne and often freelanced with other local pros such as Alan Parr, Quincy Sanders, and Farrell Vernon. The Indiana Music Education Association also accepted Leland as bassist for the All-State Jazz Combo (2012) and the All-State Jazz Big Band (2013).
While studying at DePauw University, Leland continued to freelance in the greater Fort Wayne area. His variety of playing styles widened rapidly with recording projects in rock and gospel, in addition to pit orchestra shows at Huntington University. In the meantime, his more academic pursuit of music came under the direction of North Texas jazz alumnus, Steve Snyder. Playing bass as a non-music major in both the jazz big band and combos, Leland further advanced his sight-reading and improvisational skills while maintaining the central, metronomic role of his instrument. These skills also found a wealth of application during his extended studies program in Strasbourg, France. Outside of his research in other fields, Leland sought out chances to perform in the city, an endeavor that resulted in frequent gigs with local drummer Didier Hoffman, former bandmate to jazz guitarist Bireli Lagrène. His work as a composer began near the end of his collegiate studies, including a bass arrangement of Marcus Miller’s “Scoop” and a jazz fusion reharmonization of Zedd’s “The Middle”.
Having received his Bachelor’s from DePauw in May 2018, Leland now sets course for New York City where he will join the globally-acclaimed Project Trio for their Fall 2018 season of The Studio, an entrepreneurship program tailored towards young musicians who hope to learn the business and marketing skills needed for a prosperous music career. He is confident that this next phase will aid him in achieving the balance between artistic and pragmatic skills, a balance that he will use for the betterment of not only his craft but also the people who know him and hear him.