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Lenny the 25th

Posted in Stories in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2009 by pogo56

I’d like to introduce you to a very good friend and mentor of mine. I consider him to be one of the last living masters of this music that we call jazz. He plays drums and I place him in the same category of a Tony Williams or Roy Haynes (he actually knows both of them and would go over to Tony’s house and play drum duets with him when he was younger). Chick Corea considers him to be one of the world’s greatest drummers. I saw that quote in a magazine a few years ago. He taught at Berklee College of Music and he continues to educate and inspire many musicians worldwide via his vast collection of instructional/inspirational drumming videos.

His name is Lenny “The 25th” Nelson. He’s one of the nicest, humble, down-to-earth individuals that you probably have never met. I’ve known him for about eleven or twelve years. He frequents Wally’s Café on the weekends and every time he visits, we talk and I always asked him to play. He kindly refused up until about 3 or 4 months ago. We played Just One of Those Things and it was FAST!! Lenny’s a master at the uptempos. Here’s a video of one of his earlier videos, he has over 1,000 of these in his library:

Why is Lenny known as Lenny “The 25th”? I’ll tell but it’s a long story! I’ll give it to you.

Let’s go back to the opening of Spike Lee’s The 25th Hour in the theatres. So my wife (then girlfriend) Colleen are standing in line waiting to buy tickets. I look over my back and see Lenny with his wife and I asked him what they were going to see. He said they were going to see The 25th Hour. He was excited because he calls himself the 25th. I was a bit confused so I asked him why. He then gives me his business card. It has his name “Lenny the 25th”Nelson on it and nothing else. I chuckled a bit because I think that’s the first and only time I’d received a card with no number on it!

Now fast forward several years to this past Friday night. Lenny came down to Wally’s and I hung out with him on our set break. We started a conversation that somehow got to the subject of his childhood. He then tells me that he is the 25th BORN OF 26!!! The 26th child passed away at 1 year so Lenny got all of the attention. When he was born it was headline news here in Boston. President Roosevelt contacted Lenny’s parents because he wanted to send a TV crew to their home and document their home life. This would have essentially been the first reality tv show (forget John and Kate plus 8, lol). But Lenny’s mother declined. He then described living in a household of this size. Imagine sitting at a dinner table 20 yards wide every meal!!

Lenny was a celebrity here in Boston. He was recognized everywhere he went and a social magnet to all creeds and colors. Needless to say that after all of those years of living in the public eye, Lenny now enjoys a little solitude, but when he gets on the set, he brings everyone together.

Here’s a big CHEERS to Lenny “The 25th” Nelson!!

Jason Palmer