Oliver Nelson's follow-up to his classic Blues & The Abstract Truth session for Impulse – and like that one, a tremendous little album – filled with deep tones and wonderful colors in sound! The group here's a bit larger than before – an ensemble that includes Phil Woods on alto, Ben Webster on tenor, Thad Jones on trumpet, Pepper Adams on baritone, Roger Kellaway on piano, Richard Davis on bass, and Grady Tate on drums. The album includes some superb original compositions by Nelson – just the kind of overlooked jazz numbers that make the set great – and as with most of his arrangements from the time, there's a perfect balance between group force and intimate solo space! Titles include "The Critic's Choice", "Blues & The Abstract Truth", "One For Bob", and 2 versions of Dave Brubeck's "Theme From Mr. Broadway".
Oliver Nelson had recorded several sessions for Prestige when the fledgling Impulse! label gave him the opportunity to make this septet date in 1961. The result was a rare marriage between an arranger-composer's conception and the ideal collection of musicians to execute it. The material is all based somehow on the blues, but Nelson's structural and harmonic extensions make it highly varied, suggesting ballads, hoedowns, and swing. The band is one of those groupings that seem only to have been possible around 1960, a roster so strong that the leader's name was actually listed fourth on the cover. Nelson shares the solo space with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, alto saxophonist and flutist Eric Dolphy, and pianist Bill Evans, while bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Roy Haynes contribute support and baritone saxophonist George Barrow adds depth. In stark contrast to Dolphy's brilliant, convulsive explosions, Nelson's tenor solos are intriguingly minimalist, emphasizing a tight vibrato and unusual note choices. It's not quite Kind of Blue (nothing is), but Blues and the Abstract Truth is an essential recording, one that helped define the shape of jazz in the '60s. ~ Amazon
By the time Oliver Nelson and his big band had recorded Fantabulous in March of 1964 for Argo, the great composer, saxophonist, conductor, and arranger was a man about town in New York. He had released some truly classic dates of his own as a leader in smaller group forms – Blues and the Abstract Truth and Full Nelson among them – and had done arrangement work for everyone from Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Hodges, Nancy Wilson, Frank Wess, King Curtis, Etta Jones, Jimmy Smith, Jack Teagarden, Betty Carter, Billy Taylor, and Gene Ammons, to name more than a few. For Fantabulous, he took his working big band to Chicago for a gig sponsored by Daddy-O-Daylie, a famous local disc jockey.
This Impulse two-fer revives a pair of LPs by arranger, composer, and saxophonist Oliver Nelson, Happenings and Soulful Brass, released in 1966 and 1968, respectively. Happenings, a date with pianist Hank Jones, is the better album, unlike Soulful Brass, which was co-led with comedian/pianist Steve Allen. Unfortunately, both pianists are featured mainly on harpsichord, which tends to dominate, and at times overwhelm, the compositions.
Oliver Nelson was one of the more distinctive arrangers to be active in jazz, the studios, and popular music of the '60s. While most Nelson reissues focus on his always-excellent saxophone playing (whether on tenor or alto), this six-CD set, Argo, Verve and Impulse Big Band Studio Sessions, focuses on Oliver Nelson the arranger-composer-bandleader. He does take solos on some of these dates on tenor, alto,and soprano (his only recorded solos on that instrument), but it his writing that takes center stage.