Oliver Nelson Sextet – The Blues And The Abstract Truth (1961) – Impulse!/Speakers Corners vinyl

by | Mar 6, 2012 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Oliver Nelson Sextet – The Blues And The Abstract Truth (1961) – Impulse!/Speakers Corners Records 180-gr. audiophile vinyl AS-5 [www.speakerscorner.de] *****:
Oliver Nelson was a jazz saxist and clarinetist, but is best known as one of the finest jazz arrangers and composers in the history of jazz. He made many albums for the Prestige label, and in 1967 moved to Los Angeles, where he composed much music for TV and films, as well as producing and arranging for various pop stars including Nancy Wilson, James Brown and Diana Ross. He died at age 43 from overwork.
This session from his New York years is one of his masterpieces, with Paul Chambers, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Roy Haynes and Freddie Hubbard by his side. It has become a cornerstone of jazz arrangement classes in many music schools worldwide. There are six tracks, all composed and specially arranged by Nelson for this session, and all with terrific solos by himself on tenor and alto sax as well as all the other players. Impulse was a bigger-budget operation and the session therefore had more time than it would have had at Prestige. Nelson could even borrow Freddie Hubbard and Bill Evans for the session. He could indulge in his favored musical twists such as unusual tonal centers and 44 or 56-bar forms.
This was one of Creed Taylor’s productions, but in no way does it suffer from trying to be more pop-jazz or watered-down. Eric Dolphy adds a bit of a more modern touch to the proceedings, but the contributions of all the sextet members are glorious on all the tunes.  It would be difficult to pick just one favorite, but a standout for me is Nelson’s big hit “Stolen Moments,” which opens the album. A C minor blues, it has three melody ideas which extend the basic form. Towards the end of the track Bill Evans does a gorgeous solo.
Then there are the superb sonics of this remastering – a big improvement over the original LP or CD reissue. All the players are spread out in amazing clarity in front of the listener.  The rhythm section comes thru especially clearly, not just a noisy accompaniment to the front line.  And of course no surface noise whatever. This is a magnificent tribute to the art of Oliver Nelson. If you have a good turntable system and are a jazz fan you can’t go wrong with this release!
Stolen Moments, Hoe-Down, Cascades, Yearnin’, Butch and Butch, Tennie’s Blues.
—John Henry

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