Saturday, April 3, 2010

Oliver Nelson - The Blues and The Abstract Truth (1961)

This album is another one of those overlooked gems that people should be kicking themselves when they hear it and say, "Damn, where's this been?" That was pretty much my reaction when I first heard it a few months ago. The line-up, for one, is one the most spectacular ever assembled; it's like the intersection of four different distinct styles. Let's take a look at the players: George Barrow on baritone sax, Paul Chambers on bass, Eric Dolphy on flute and alto sax, Bill Evans on piano, Roy Haynes on drums, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and then the leader, Oliver Nelson as arranger and on alto and tenor saxes.

We can discuss each musicians respective resumés; everyone should know about Bill Evans, more for his trio work with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian (check out their 1961 album Explorations), but also for his contributions to the Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue sessions.

Next, Paul Chambers; known as Mr. P.C., and probably the second most influential jazz bassist after Charles Mingus, period. He's literally played with everybody and anybody between 1954 until his death in 1969 at age 33.

Freddie Hubbard? Probably my second favorite trumpeter (after Lee Morgan and miles ahead of Miles); another guy with a list of credentials that go on and on- started in 1960 with Eric Dolphy, then recorded his debut as a leader then went on to play on Ornette's landmark Free Jazz album. That's just in his first year of recording, the man went hard right up until he passed in 2008.

I'll skip Roy Jones and George Barrow (they aren't credited on the album cover!) and get to Eric Dolphy. If Dolphy didn't die at 36, he'd be mentioned alongside Coltrane as the two best saxmen ever; his Out To Lunch is not only one of my favorite records of all time, it's the artwork I'm using behind this very website's main banner and the inspiration for the site's name as well. He's also one of the best jazz flautists ever, and did I mention he also played clarinet? C'mon, the man was an absolute virtuoso. I'd post Out To Lunch on here, but that's an album you better have if you're into jazz, no ifs ands or buts around that.

Oliver Nelson gained notoriety playing alongside Quincy Jones in the late '50s and made a big splash with this record. He found plenty of work as a highly sought after arranger, eventually working with James Brown and Diana Ross, but Nelson would get his biggest paychecks from composing music for TV and film (The Six Million Dollar Man, Columbo, The Bionic Woman and Last Tango In Paris).

So there you go. An album that features some of the best performers at various stages of their careers, all coming together to create a marvelous, almost forgotten record...

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