Born in Oklahoma City Oklahoma, Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson studied composition at Indiana University with John Eaton and Iannis Xenakis, and with Gunther Schuller and Jacob Druckman at the Bershire Music Centre, Tangelwood. In 1974, he was awarded the first John W. Work III Composition Fellowship. In 1974, Nelson moved to New York. And from 1974 to 1994, he worked in the field of Creative Music Education. and played with his contemporaries William Parker, Hamid Drake and many others. He worked with the Lincoln Center Institute and the Guggenheim Museum until he moved to Switzerland, more precisely to Biel, in the mid-1990s. Kalvert-Nelson is active internationally as a composer and improviser, notably with the Jalalu-Kalvert Nelson Unit.