Secret MessagesJon Nelson & Tom Kolor


Trumpeter Jon Nelson and percussionist Tom Kolor release Secret Messages, a collection of works for duo by Moshe Shulman, Dave Ballou, Jeffrey Stadelman, Dafnis Prieto, and Emil Harnas 2. The works represented take advantage of this duo's unique timbral range, mining a representative range of aesthetic approaches to produce a cohesive collection that contributes several new works to the repertoire.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 51:55
01Secret Messages II
Secret Messages II
03for vibraphone and trumpet
for vibraphone and trumpet
04Koral 17
Koral 17
05Koral 18
Koral 18
06Koral 1
Koral 1
07Trail of Memories
Trail of Memories
08Ice Fishing in Kanona
Ice Fishing in Kanona

On Secret Messages, trumpeter Jon Nelson and percussionist Tom Kolor present several works birthed at The University at Buffalo, where they are both on faculty. The pieces display a beguiling range of inspirations and sonic references, evoking the ancient lineage of both of these instruments up to the vanguard practices of today.

Moshe Shulman’s Secret Messages II opens with a clarion trumpet call, accompanied by rolls and filigree on a percussion battery of wine cups, a table knife, and a plastic water bottle. Throughout the piece, Shulman explores the found sounds created when these everyday objects become musical instruments, while creating a spatial three dimensionality to the texture by transforming Nelson’s trumpet timbre with different mutes.

Dave Ballou’s trumpet solo Samskara develops its ideas in an organic, naturally evolving fashion, as an improviser might turn around fragments of musical ideas as they unfold, developing them as they arrive at different pitch levels. for vibraphone and trumpet explores the complementary acoustic qualities of the two instruments, either highlighting the trumpets ability to shape the duration and sustain of a gesture initially articulated by the vibraphone, animating long tones with charged trills, or playing simultaneously vigorous passagework.

Jeffrey Stadelman’s Koral series includes several short pieces for small instrumental forces that presents a snapshot of a sound world. #17, for solo muted trumpet, features winding figures that are punctuated by short repeated notes and key accented pitches. #18 is a duo meant to invoke street musicians, with Kolor’s percolating castanets and guiros egging on Nelson’s Third Stream-esque melody. The final Koral, and the first in Stadelman’s series, is for solo percussion and electronics and places the digital texture in the foreground as the live percussionist plays what Stadelman calls “a gamut of clamped, ‘non-musical sonic elements.”

Dafnis Prieto’s Trail of Memories translates into sound memories and recollections from the composer’s childhood. Prieto divides the thematic material into “domninant” and “subdominant” memories, the former anchoring the structure of the piece and the latter only occurring a couple of times and then receding from the texture. The piece migrates through several expressive areas, from marshal to playful, virtuosic to wistful, with the percussion often accentuating the trumpet material through imitation and supportive material.

Emil Harnas 2’s Ice Fishing in Kanona is an electro-acoustic work that highlights his unique fusing of music concrete, granular and additive synthesis, and agrisynthesis. Elaborate delays, glitchy static, and reedy electric organ timbres support the solo line in a texture that places the trumpet inside a dystopian hall of sonic mirrors. Midway through the work, a quasi modernist Klezmer groove is established before fading into disembodied electronic sounds, followed by an unsettling march texture.

Jon Nelson and Tom Kolor’s commitment to ambitious works is evident throughout this varied and engaging collection. Here are several pieces that carve out their own aesthetic territory, often driven by a musical puzzle that the composers have set out for themselves to solve and explore. It is music grounded in the fundamental modernist enterprise of inquiry, the captivating “what if”, performed with integrity and conviction.

- Dan Lippel

Recorded in Slee Hall at The State University of New York at Buffalo, 2005 - 2015
Executive Producers: Jon Nelson, Tom Kolor
Engineering, Editing, Mastering: Christopher Jacobs
Slee Hall Concert Manager: Phil Rehard

Design: Marc Wolf,

Cover Art: Rafael Vargas Suarez Universal BioCosmos (2022), stamped ink, acrylic, oil enamel and collage on paper (unique) signed, titled and dated on verso 14.37 x 14.17 inches (36.5 x36 cm) Courtesy of the artist and Hutchinson Modern, New York

Jon Nelson

Professor of Music at The University at Buffalo, Jon Nelson maintains an active career as a performer, producer and collaborator. As a founding member of Meridian Arts Ensemble, a First Prize Winner at the 1999 Concert Artists Guild Competition, he has performed in 49 United States, Taiwan, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, and released 15 CDs with the group. His alt / rock / chamber unit Genkin Philharmonic plays repertoire ranging from Renaissance to Funk, and he has commissioned numerous works for that and other solo projects. Recent collaborations include projects with the David Sanford Big Band, Stephen Barber, Zane Merritt, and the Factory Seconds Brass Trio. Composer collaborations include work with Milton Babbitt, Tim Beyer, Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, Nick Didkovsky, David Felder, John Halle, Ed Jacobs, Philip Johnston, Ana Lara, Tania León, Kirk Nurock, Tom Pierson, Andrew Rindfleisch, Elliot Sharp, Su Lian Tan, Ira Taxin, Iannis Xenakis, and Frank Zappa. He has served on the faculty at the Oaxaca Instrumenta, Tanglewood, Princeton University, Boston University, Hartt and Middlebury Colleges. Jon Nelson holds a B.M. from The Juilliard School where he studied with Mark Gould, and he has also studied with Antoine Cure in France, Laurie Frink and William Vacchiano in New York, and Don Harry in Buffalo.

Tom Kolor

Upon graduation from the Juilliard School in 1997, percussionist Tom Kolor became one of New York’s most in demand chamber musicians. He has collaborated with such composers and conductors as Louis Andriessen, Milton Babbitt, Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, James Dillon, Mario Davidovsky, Tan Dun, John Eaton, David Felder, Brian Ferneyhough, Philippe Hurel, Oliver Knussen, Robert Kraft, Tania Leon, Alvin Lucier, Steven Mackey, Tristan Murial, Wayne Peterson, George Perle, Steve Reich, Christopher Rouse, Frederic Rzewski, Ralph Shapey, Essa Pekka Salonen, James Tenney, Chinary Ung, Charles Wuorinen, Julia Wolfe, Christian Wolff, Iannis Xenakis, and John Zorn. Since 1995, he has been a member of Talujon Percussion, presenting hundreds of concerts throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, giving countless premieres, making a significant contribution to the percussion repertoire. His solo CDs, American Masterpieces for Solo Percussion Volumes 1 & 2 feature works by Babbitt, Cage, Wuorinen, Shapey, Wolff, and Feldman. In addition, he appears on over fifty commercial recordings for labels such as Albany, Bridge, Capstone, CRI, Deutsche Grammophone, Innova, Koch, Naxos, New World, North/South Consonance, Tzadik, and Wergo. Tom Kolor is an Associate Professor of Music at The University at Buffalo SUNY.

Moshe Shulman

Russian-born Israeli/American composer, violin, viola, bandoneon and accordion player, Moshe Shulman (b. 1978) holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Composition from the Jerusalem Academy of Music, and a PhD in Composition from the University at Buffalo, studying with Mark Kopytman, David Felder and Johannes Schollhorn. His music has been performed in Israel, Brazil, Canada, United States, Russia and France and Hungary by Norrbotten NEO, Juventas New Music Ensemble, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Meridian Arts Ensemble, Slee Sinfonietta (Buffalo, NY), International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and the Arditti Quartet.

Dave Ballou

Trumpeter/Composer Dave Ballou can be heard in a variety of settings, from solo trumpet improvisations to large ensembles. His recordings can be found on the Steeplechase, CleanFeed, pfMentum and Out of Your Head record labels. Ballou has performed or recorded with Rabih Abou-Kahlil, Steely Dan, Michael Formanek, Mary Halvorson, Woody Herman, Andrew Hill, John Hollenbeck, Sheila Jordan, Oliver Lake, Dave Liebman, Mario Pavone, Dewey Redman, Maria Schneider, and Gunther Schuller. Ballou is a Professor of Music at Towson University and is the founding director of the Murray Jazz Residency.

Jeffrey Stadelman

Jeffrey Stadelman was born in 1959. He has composed over 50 works, mainly for orchestral instruments in chamber and large-ensemble formations. His most recent efforts feature intricate contrapuntal webs woven with the help of custom computer search processes. Jeff taught at the University at Buffalo from 1993 to 2016.

Dafnis Prieto

[Performer Bio]

From Cuba, Dafnis Prieto’s revolutionary drumming techniques and compositions had a powerful impact on the Latin and Jazz music scene, nationally and internationally. Various awards include “2011 MacArthur Fellowship Award”, “Up & Coming Musician of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2006, a Grammy Award Nomination for ”Absolute Quintet” as Best Latin Jazz Album, and a Latin Grammy Nomination for “Best New Artist” in 2007. Since his arrival to New York in 1999, Dafnis has worked in bands led by Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, Eddie Palmieri, Chico and Arturo O’Farrill, Dave Samuels & The Caribbean Jazz Project, Jane Bunnett, D.D. Jackson, Edward Simon, Michel Camilo, Chucho Valdez, Bebo Valdez, Roy Hargrove, Don Byron and Andrew Hill, among others.

[Composer Bio]

Dafnis Prieto (b. 1974) was born in Santa Clara, Cuba where he studied percussion and guitar. As a teenager, he studied at the National School of Music in Havana, concentrating on classical and Afro-Cuban music. After arriving in New York City in 1999, he became one of the most sought after jazz drummers in the United States. A 2011 MacArthur Fellow, he has been teaching at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami since 2015.

Emil Harnas 2

Emil Harnas 2 is a composer / producer currently living in Sweden. He holds a PhD in composition from The University at Buffalo, where he studied with David Felder and Jeff Stadelman. He composes for diverse ensembles, including chamber groups, trumpet ensembles, chamber orchestra, rock band, and electro-acoustic sound settings.



Vital Weekly

New Focus leaves it up to the artists whether releases are digital-only (for file download) or actually appear as a physical release. As we do not really review digital releases, this has reduced the volume of NFR reviews by more than half. Add to this the summer break, which has been quiet around NFR releases lately. I need to catch up on this now. The two releases picked out here are the two latest. But, coincidence or not, subsequent releases often have something in common with NFR. In this case, the use of brass instruments with a single other instrument in a duo setting.

Jon Nelson and Tom Kolor - also a duo - also trumpet but now teaming with percussion. As noted sometime earlier in a review, this is challenging, as there is little means to create lasting sounds, the percussion rather limited to, well, 'percussive' sounds. Again, we have composers contributing, five in total, thus collecting several different styles. 'Secret Messages', the title track by Moshe Shulman, leaves the trumpet to create a line of melody
whilst metal and bell sounds rattle alongside. Dave Ballou contributes two pieces. The first 'Samskara' is for solo trumpet. 'For vibraphone and trumpet' sees Kolor join, again with bell-like sounds, now following the long-drawn trumpet lines with a sound that matches the trumpet timbre, merging the sounds to some extent.
Jeffrey Stadelman contributes three 'Korals', short 'sketches' of music. A short trumpet solo (is this being mean to the percussionist again?), then an ironic piece reminiscent of a street-corner duo, and a longer piece, the first he composed in this series, which combines electronics and percussion - and percussion-triggered electronics - into a more abstract piece of contemporary music. No trumpet this time. The last two tracks by Dafnis Prieto and Emil Harnas 2 are around ten minutes and now bring the two sound worlds together more seamlessly. The percussion works through a range of instruments, thus much better following the lines of the trumpet through
the various sounds it contributes. The last track, 'Ice fishing in Kanona' again adds electronics to build more layers, which, as before, does the piece a lot of good. Nevertheless, all in all (apart from the last tracks), it is not my favourite. I would rather go for that married couple, to be honest. (RSW)

— RSW, 9.05.2023

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