Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth

Nelson's 1961 album, here on vinyl with a bonus track, looked for new perspectives on the blues, probably the most played sequence in jazz


It is a delight to be reacquainted with an album that has been missing from my collection for far too long. Oliver Nelson composed material reflecting the blues in all its forms together with Hoe-Down, based on that other jazz staple I Got Rhythm. His originals shine fresh light on the fundamental building blocks of harmony that have inspired jazz musicians through the ages.

The opening title, which is one of his most memorable, was an inspiration to just about everyone. I remember playing in rehearsal ensembles in the early 60s and each band had Stolen Moments in the pad. It has a 16-bar theme but the solos revert to the 12-bar form and Freddie Hubbard is outstanding. With his Clifford Brown-like approach he bristles with authority, clearly able to execute every idea conceived in his fertile imagination.

Teenie’s Blues is notable for how Eric Dolphy stretches the harmonic boundaries almost to breaking point. The folksy Hoe-Down has more fine Hubbard with Dolphy a little more disciplined. He is overshadowed by the leader who is far more communicative in his soulful choruses with a distinctly Benny Golson-like approach.

Bill Evans opens Yearnin’ with two choruses of block chords straight out of the Red Garland playbook. It is another attractively voiced original with gospel overtones that seem to have escaped Dolphy in his turn at the solo mike. Hubbard’s four choruses, however, are right in the pocket, totally in keeping with the composer’s conception.

As a bonus this LP includes the first recorded version of Stolen Moments. It was then titled The Stolen Moment and made its debut on a 1960 date by the Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis big band. The leader reveals his amazing armoury of false fingerings, which helped create one of the most unique and arresting sounds on the tenor saxophone.

(1) Stolen Moments; Hoe-Down; Cascades; Yearnin’; Butch And Butch; (2) Teenie’s Blues; (3) The Stolen Moment (44.55)
(1) Freddie Hubbard (t); Eric Dolphy (as, f); Nelson (ts, as); George Barrow (bar); Bill Evans (p); Paul Chambers (b); Roy Haynes (d). New Jersey, 23 February 1961. (2) as (1) omit Hubbard & Barrow. (3) Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Big Band. New Jersey, 20 September 1960.
Waxtime 772321