love of Afro-Caribbean music developed at an early age and was nurtured in New
York City, where he immigrated at the age of 12. During the 1960's many of today's acclaimed and virtuoso Latin musicians convened regularly at the
home of Andy and Jerry Gonzalez to participate in weekly 'jam sessions'. Nelson
joined these young and notable
musicians that included talents such as Dave Valentin, Hilton Ruiz, Oscar
Hernandez, Milton Cardona, Nicki Marrero, Tommy Lopez, Jr., Eladio Perez,
Charlie Santiago, Papo Vasquez, Orestes Vilato, and the powerful voices of Adalberto Santiago, Willie Garcia, Justo Betancourt and Virgilio Marti. It was during this period that Nelson explored his interest in the
Nelson's attraction to the Cuban Tres was initially driven by its reputation as a formidable challenge to achieve technical mastery. The Tres guitar is comprised of three sets of double strings and is known for the degree of technical difficulty it imposes in order to generate a full chord from a limited number of strings. His first Tres was borrowed from Andy Gonzalez and it marked the beginning of his journey with an instrument that represents the richness and tradition of Cuban folklore.
Essential to his development was Rene Lopez, musicologist and leading authority on Cuban music. Through him, Nelson learned the fundamentals and history of Cuban music. He used the recordings of Arsenio Rodriguez and 'El Nino Rivera, two masters of the Tres guitar and pioneers of the Cuban 'son', to guide his training. Their genius and the 'descarga' of Israel Lopez Cachao (pictured right) strongly influenced Nelson's music style and skill in incorporating the Tres to the rhythm of the drums. Insipired by the paucity of Tres players in Latin America and the Caribbean, Nelson vowed to preserve tradition through his dedication to this instrument and is regarded by Cachao as the ambassador of the Tres.
His first opportunity as a performer in the Latin music scene was in 1971 as a member of the Justo Betancourt Band. He later played with Orq. Harlow during which time he developed a close friendship with Ismael Miranda that later served to create Orq. Revelacion and soloist for the band. During the 1970's, Nelson recorded with all of the top Latin bands including Charanga Tipica Ideal and two international recordings with African Charanga groups. He was invited to join Grupo Folklorico Experimental Nuevayorquino and in 1972 joined Tipica 73 for four years. After its dissolution he served as a founding member of Los Kimboswith Adalberto Santiago. He formed his own band in 1976, Nelson Gonzlez and his Band and recorded two albums, with one produced by the TR (Tito Rodriguez) Record label.
Nelson tours with Eddie Palmieri, Israel "Cachao"Lopez, La India, and the Conga Kings. (Eddie Palmieri at left at the Blue Note, Sept. 26th, 2003)
Nelson was prominently featured on the following Grammy Award Winning albums: Cachao MasterSessions I ,Cachao Master Sessions II, Gloria Estefan's Mi Tierra, Gloria Estefan's Alma Caribena, Rubin Blades' Mundo, Bebo Valdez's El Arte Del Sabor, and Tito Puenteand Eddie Palmieri's Masterpiece.
accomplishments include: participation in the World Music Festival sponsored by
the Smithsonian Music Institute; winner of the 'Best Salsa Band In Latin
America' Award for
Tipica '73 at the Primer Festival Mundial de Salsa in 1976; winner of the 1977, 1978 and 1979 'Best Tres Player of the Year' Award from Latin NY Magazine; joined Latin Percussion, Inc., to record a percussion instructional album, co-directed two albums with the master of the drum, Carlos PatatoValdez, and instructed various "percussion clinics; participation in the inauguration ceremony of President Carter; invitation from the Fania All Stars to record the famous 'Habana Jam' in Cuba; nomination of his CD, Son Mundano(1997) by the 'Tu Musica' Awards for best production of the Year;performance at the 2001 Grammy Awards MusicCares Person of the Year tribute to Paul Simon. (Nelson pictured with Tito Puente, left)
He has made numerous television appearances,
the 2000 Grammy Awards; "Saturday
Live, with Kenny Vance; the "Dick Cavett Show"; the
with Tipica '73; the "David Letterman Show," with Gloria Estefan and Cachao; the "Sunday Night Show" with Paul Simon;the "Tonight Show with Jay
Leno," appearing with Andy Garcia and
Cachao; the Rosie ODonnell Show with Marc Anthony; and Marc Anthony Live on HBO. Nelson was in Los
Angeles, and was scheduled to perform with Marc Anthony on the ill-fated 2001 Latin Grammys. Nelson is featured, along
with many music legends, in the film Cachao: Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos, by
Andy Garcia. (Available on video.)
Nelson formed part of Danny Rivera's(pictured left) performances, who is regarded as the National Voice of Puerto Rico. He also collaborated with and co-directed three of his albums, one of which won the"Tu Musica" Award in 1997 (Hagaze La Luz.) Nelson's indispensable contribution to the Broadway Musical production, The Capeman. and member of the guitar and string ensemble, led to friendship with composer and musical director Paul Simon. He has served as a guest artist with the singer La India, and was a member of Marc Anthony's touring band. His band Son Mundano headlined as the opening act for Marc Anthony's October 4th 2000 Oscar De La Hoya Foundation benefit concert in Los Angeles. Nelson's Band was asked to play at the 2001 Latino Commission on Aids Gala Benefit celebration, and his song, "No Tienes Porque Llorar" was selected as the theme song for the year. Nelson was a quest artist with QuBop and was featured on their recent recording. Nelson regularly tours with Cachao, Eddie Palmieri, and the Conga Kings. His performances throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States span 25 years.
Nelson also has broadway musicals on his resume:
In 2007 Nelson was honored to lead the on-stage band of the Off-Broadway Musical Celia written by Carmen Rivera and Candido Tirado. In 2014 Nelson lead the on-stage band for the off-broadway musical The Happiest Song Plays Last by Quiara Alegria Hudes.
Nelson is proud to share his instrument with the world
through his publication of an instructional manual on the
Cuban Tres Guitar for Mel Bay Publications.
(Sr.) is proud to have
his son Quique appear as lead vocalist on four of the songs on
|Nelson's own private production, his CD entitled Son Mundano, (please click) is a new musical dimension that honors Cuban roots, integrating a particular Puerto Rican style that strengthens the musical-spiritual bond between Cuba and Puerto Rico.|
new CD Pa'
(Qbadisc)( Please click) was ranked #1, (NY) #2(San Francisco) and #3 (Los Angeles) by Latin Beat Magazine (December) and is available online and in stores now. Danny Rivera serves as a guest vocalist on both of Nelson's allbums.
|Nelson's son, Nelson "Nemesis Yankee" Jr. (pictured right) is embarking on his own musical career, gaining notoriety in both Latin and Hip Hop vocal spheres. His new CD Mi Bandera was recently released on Latinflava. Nelson Jr. appears as lead vocalist on both of his father's CD's|