Nelson Symonds (September 24, 1933 – October 11, 2008) was a jazz guitarist from Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia.



After pursuing the banjo at a young age, Symonds switched to the guitar. He gained his first performance experience touring on a traveling carnival from 1955 to 1958 throughout the United States.

Upon returning to Canada, Nelson settled in Montreal in 1958 and played in the group 'The Stablemates'[1] led by Alfie Wade Jr.

It was during the 1960s and 1970s when Nelson became one of the premiere names in Montreal Jazz that many players from New York would come to see or play with. These include Roland Kirk, Art Farmer, Sonny Red, Benny Golson, Jackie McLean, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy Heath and Stanley Turrentine among others. He received the greatest praise from such jazz giants as Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane, who at one point extended the invitation to join his group.

Throughout this period, Nelson played mainly with bassist Charlie Biddle and drummer Norman Marshall Villeneuve at venues such as The Black Bottom and Rockheads Paradise. During the 1970s, Symonds and Biddle performed as a duo in numerous Laurentian resorts. Throughout his 30 plus year career, he played at all of the major jazz venues in Montreal including Upstairs, Biddles and Cafe La Bohème among others.

He died in Montreal, Quebec due to a heart attack - 12 years years after undergoing a quadruple bypass that put an end to his distinguished musical career. He was 75.


His first (and only) album as a leader, Getting Personal,[2] was released on Justin Time Records in 1992. He has also appeared as a sideman on saxophonist Dave Turners albums Live - Thank You For Your Hospitality and The Pulse Brothers that are available on DSM Records. He has also been the subject of two documentaries by Mary Ellen David [3]




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