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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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OLIVER NELSON

The Blues and the Abstract Truth

American Jazz Classics 99048

 

 

1. Stolen Moments
2. Hoe-Down
3. Cascades
4. Yearnin'
5. Butch and Butch
6. Teenie's Blues
7. Screamin' The Blues
8. The Meetin'
9. Walk Away
10. Trane Whistle
11. Whole Nelson
12. Stolen Moments (First Version, aka The Stolen Moment)

Oliver Nelson - Alto sax, tenor sax
Eric Dolphy - Alto sax, flute
George Barrow - Baritone sax, tenor sax, flute (tracks 1-5, 9-12)
Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet (tracks 1-5)
Bill Evans - Piano (tracks 1-6)
Paul Chambers - Bass (tracks 1-6)
Roy Haynes - Drums
Richard Williams - Trumpet (tracks 7-12)
Richard Wyands - Piano (tracks 7-12)
George Duvivier - Bass (tracks 7, 8)
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Tenor sax (tracks 9-12)
Clark Terry, Bob Bryant - Trumpets (tracks 9-12)
Melba Liston, Jimmy Cleveland - Trombones (tracks 9-12)
Jerome Richardson - Tenor sax, flute (tracks 9-12)
Bob Ashton - Baritone sax (tracks 9-12)
Wendell Marshall - Bass (tracks 9-12)

 

According to most critics, this album is Oliver Nelson's masterpiece, and I can't disagree with that. The 1961 recording, which comprised the first six tracks on this CD, consisted of variations on the blues - although the blues element is sometimes hard to perceive. Oliver Nelson wrote and arranged all the pieces, and the opening Stolen Moments became a jazz standard. This tune had actually been recorded a year before as The Stolen Moment on an album by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis's big band - and that track is added here as a bonus along with three other tracks from that album composed and arranged by Nelson. Two other bonus tracks (tracks 7 and 8) come from Oliver Nelson's album Screaming the Blues.

The success of the original album is not surprising when you see the line-up of musicians, all of them top-class jazzmen. In Stolen Moments, Freddie Hubbard and Oliver Nelson contribute soaring solos, and Eric Dolphy's flute solo is lyrical. Hoe-Down is a jazz interpretation of a country hoe-down with propulsive drumming by Roy Haynes. Oliver Nelson's tenor playing in Cascades swirls appropriately, and fine solos come from Freddie Hubbard and Bill Evans.

Bill Evans also stars in Yearnin', perhaps the closest of the six tunes to the traditional blues format. Eric Dolphy's alto sax solo swirls like a serpent. Butch and Butch (dedicated to Oliver Nelson's oldest sister and her husband) also stays close to a conventional blues. Paul Chambers' dependable bass opens Teenie's Blues, reminding us how important he is to the success of this whole album. The togetherness of the group is underlined by the way that Nelson's solo picks up a phrase that ends Dolphy's solo, and Bill Evans's solo starts with a phrase that ended Nelson's solo.

The original LP lasted for only 36 minutes, so it makes sense that this reissue should add some extra tracks, and they are worth hearing, especially as they all include Eric Dolphy and Roy Haynes. Screamin' the Blues has an excellent piano solo from Richard Wyands. The sleeve information lists Eric Dolphy as playing the alto sax but it sounds like the bass clarinet to me - and how he wails! The Meetin' has a gospel feel to it, and Eric Dolphy (on alto sax this time) wails with gospel intensity.

The last four tracks come from a 1960 session by a big band led by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, originally released under the title Trane Whistle. Lockjaw's fierce tenor sax is strongly featured and the arrangements have the elegant stamp of Oliver Nelson. It is interesting to hear the original version of Stolen Moments, which is played at a slightly slower - and less effective - speed.

These were the compositions and arrangements that established Oliver Nelson as a really talented composer/arranger and launched him on a career which included writing for significant albums by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Johnny Hodges and Wes Montgomery.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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