Josh Nelson understands and loves his home town. Tonight he performed the third and latest installation of his Discovery Project, “The Sky Remains,” at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, combining his intricate and engaging original music with spoken word and visuals to create a tapestry of Los Angeles that was as illuminating as it was ambitious in scope. Travis Flournoy’s artful live video projections meshed perfectly with the music and included glimpses of classic film clips as well as iconic and more obscure images of Los Angeles. Travis not only knows how to use images to enhance narrative, he has an artist’s eye for color and shapes.
Everything from drought to floods, freeways, Tiki culture, the cult of fame, the human creative spirit, multiculturalism, architecture, and racial tensions were dealt with in a way that was deft, engaging, and completely satisfying. In addition to his original music Josh presented works by a handful of composers who are closely identified with Los Angeles including Jimmy Rowles and Eliot Smith. It was a pleasure to hear Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from “Chinatown” performed live, featuring the trumpet playing of Chris Lawrence – Uan Rasey would have been proud. As always, Josh surrounded himself with superb musicians – Chris Lawrence on trumpet and flugelhorn, Brian Walsh on clarinet and bass clarinet, Alex Boneham on bass, and Dan Schnelle on percussion. Kathleen Grace and Lillian Sengpiehl are two artists who never fail to amaze me. They are complete singers who not only possess beautiful instruments, but are solid musicians and perform with emotional intensity and focus.
The added element of narration by Robert Petersen, of the Hidden History of Los Angeles podcast brought everything even more sharply into focus, lending relevant historical perspective and insight to the proceedings. Jesse Ottinger and Claudia Carballada provided the very effective scenery, placing a series of opaque screens to create a palette that seemed to be constantly shifting and moving under the influence of Travis Flournoy’s projections. If you love Los Angeles, and I do, you need to see the latest installation of Josh Nelson’s Discovery Project – “The Sky Remains.” Only an artist in complete command of his craft could produce such a satisfyingly realized project.