Pianist Mboya Nicholson is respected by his peers. He has been commissioned to compose; has had audience with illustrious listeners, including the consul general to the Netherlands, and learned from jazz luminaries like Ellis Marsalis. Mboya’s composition style is heavily influenced by the general feel of the American popular standard song, making melody a priority. The tradition of the standard song, along with various influences, including aspects of New Orleans’s post war jazz, combine to create his musical point of view.
Born in 1973 in Edmonton Canada, Mboya developed a love for jazz music through the family’s record collection. After high school, Mboya attended MacEwan University, studying with renowned master pianists Charlie Austin and Bill Richards. In the 1990’s Mboya could be found playing the Edmonton Jazz Festival and concert tributes to Sidney Bechet, Paul Robeson and others. The Winspear Centre for Music, Edmonton’s state of the art recital hall invited Mboya to perform a jazz concert for young people during their opening festivities.
In 1999, he moved to New Orleans, living there for 7 years and studying with jazz titans and legends like Terence Blanchard, Ellis Marsalis and Harold Battiste. Upon returning to Canada, Mboya lived in Toronto for eight years, teaching piano and performing. During his time in Toronto, Mboya wrote string arrangements for various projects supervised by Colin Mendez Morris, including material for opera singers Marc S. Doss, Ernesto Ramirez and contemporary singer Alessandra Felicia. He also composed and performed a work commissioned by Morris, commemorating the Humber River Valley, a culturally significant area of Ontario.
Currently, Mboya lives in Edmonton, performing and teaching. He teaches a jazz piano studies course for private and group study. This course gives students in depth exposure to jazz that transcends a solely technical approach to learning the music, emphasizing listening to recordings, and prioritizing the aural history component of jazz education, as well as the aspect of written history.