John Tapscott

AOTW Oct 23-29 - Oliver Nelson

73 posts in this topic

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I think Oliver is worthy of an AOTW; so why not one of his best? (IMHO).

Thanks Michael, for the thread on how to post an image.

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Wow - have we never done this one before?

There is so much to say about this record.

Years ago I transcribed all the arrangements to play with various groups. It's a small group arranging course, right there.

Elsewhere others have mentioned the stand-out solos on "Stolen Moments", Nelson's stark, disciplined motivic development, which stands in contrast to Hubbard's exuberant display. I'm convinced that this track, which has become a jazz classic, would not have been so well-received by the jazz public had Dolphy soloed on alto instead of flute.

Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Roy Haynes. DAMN!!!

And, as always, recognition for the unsoloing George Barrow.

I look forward to listening again to an album that is embedded in my memory.

Mike

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Wow - have we never done this one before?

Mike

I don't think so. I checked the list a couple of times and didn't see it. I'll check again, but one of the reasons I chose it was because it seems we've not done an Oliver Nelson record before. Plus I've detected a bit of ambivalence among some listers about Oliver and I thought this recording might kick start a discussion about him (including some of his other recordings which may not scale the heights of this one). Maybe I should have chosen a lesser known O.N. CD, but decided to go with this one, which most people probably have and would be easy to get, if you don't.

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The only thing that could improve this great record would be one less track--the jarring Hoe-Down.

Edited by kh1958

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A masterpiece - even Hoe Down has its place within its design. Nelson's single pick.

A true all-star date.

His tenor solo on the title tune is one that never - never - fails to move me to tears. I don't know anybody else playing tenor that way.

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I have to admit that this is one of the most facinating Jazz Records I've ever heard and it is one of those that is most often played.

Cheers, Tjobbe

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You all are gonna laugh (or maybe point and laugh is more like it :P )...

...but I only heard this date for the very first time about a year or two ago. :blink: Had heard the cut 'Stolen Moments' quite a number of times, here and there, but somehow never owned or heard the entire date until relatively recently. :ph34r:

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One of the first records I bought, jazz that is, due to Dolphy's presence.

I remember hearing the first tune and thinking "this is so familiar and so perfect", like Mike said, small group writing and arranging at it's best but also epitomising to an extent what 'modern' jazz should actually sound like.

It's going on in a minute when Bill's finished at the Vanguard :D

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So much to say. Too much, maybe, for one sitting...

In terms of presenting a coherent and unified vision, capturing a mood, a time, and a place, creating a lingering and ever-deepening fascination, and just in terms of overall mojo, comparisons with Kind Of Blue are not out of line. Not at all.

Oliver Nelson was a truly gifted and multi-faceted artist. I'd go so far as to call him "deep", in the truest sense of the word. Unfortunately, his career path tended to blur, and at too many times obsure, this. But in this album (and in his other unalloyed masterpiece, the all-but-forgotten Black Brown & Beautiful), it's on full display, and the results are as compelling as any music can be.

The reason for this, at least for me, is a fundamental tension, an internal conflict that is accepted rather than battled against. You can hear it in the compositions and the arrangements, where the lead lines are all pretty upfront and "accessable" and the inner voices are darkly yet subtly dissonant, sometimes extremely so. You can hear it in his playing, where a passive, almost "classical" saxophone tone is used to play lines that burst with harmonic defiance and rhythmic obstinancy (has anybody, other than perhaps Steve Lacy, ever swung so hard by not "swinging"?).

You can especially hear it in how he plays with and against Dolphy (perhaps even moreso on the Prestige dates they made together), a player whose playing is the opposite of Nelson's in nearly every respect. Dolphy's emotions explode without hinderance, Nelson's always threaten to but never do - overt versus implied. I get the feeling that if Nelson was to ever "cut loose" emotionally that the results would've been dangerous, "scorched earth" type stuff in the extreme. but he never, ever. did. In the end, any Nelson/Dolphy collaboration inevitably has Dolphy leaving the most residual "relaxation" in this listener's psyche.

That is no small feat, I believe, and that's what I'm talking about when I say tha Oliver Nelson was a deep cat. The music of few, if any, "jazz" musicians contains so much overwhelming, fundamental tension and inner turmoil that is so fully expressed by not "expressing" it. In this regard, Nelson and the Bill Evans of this general period have a lot in common, and I don't think it's an accident that Evans's presence on this date & KOB is one that without which the music therein would be fundamentally different. The difference in these albums is that on KOB, Evans was being used by the leader to provide a brilliant, foudational amplification of but one aspect of that leader's personality. On Nelson's album, he is used more as a foil - Nelson's internal tensions are at least the equal to Evans', probably even greater. Whereas on KOB, Evans had the role of "defining" the ambiance of the performances. pn BATAT, he's responding to an ambiance that already exists in the most fundamental of ways. If it can be said that Evans was co-designer of the house that is KOB, then it can also be said that on BATAT he was stepping into his "dream house", one entirely of somebody else's design, but one that was more "him" than anything he could've constructed for himself.

Yeah, Blues And The Abstract Truth is a deep album. Hell, the title is deep. Oliver Nelson was a deep cat. Everybody on this album (I'll include Barrow too, just because) is/was a deep cat. You can dive into these waters without fear, but you can never, ever, touch bottom, much less get out on the shallow end. There ain't no shallow end.

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You all are gonna laugh (or maybe point and laugh is more like it  :P  )...

...but I only heard this date for the very first time about a year or two ago.  :blink:  Had heard the cut 'Stolen Moments' quite a number of times, here and there, but somehow never owned or heard the entire date until relatively recently.  :ph34r:

I bought it because Dolphy is on it a long time ago, but I should really give it more spin time.

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After I give the AOTW a listen, I'll going to give this one a spin. Not in the same league, of course, but interesting enough in its own right.

c95341fjb4w.jpg

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I've always had warmest feelings about "Teeny's Blues" on this one, probably one of the less celebrated tracks? Great line, & the solos too. It was something my old piano teacher taped for me early on to study.

Incidentally if you listen to Hubbard solo on Jackie McLean's Bluesnik you can hear him play a snatch of one of the Nelson themes here. The McLean album was recorded several months earlier I note.

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After I give the AOTW a listen, I'll going to give this one a spin.  Not in the same league, of course, but interesting enough in its own right.

c95341fjb4w.jpg

Thad's solo on Blues O'Mighty (track 2) is IMHO one of his best on record. It cracks me up every time I hear it.

As Mike said, this recording shouldn't have been titled in such a way as to invite inevitable comparisons to the original. It's not the classic that BITAT is, but it's great in its own way.

BTW, I've always referred to this AOTW as "Blues and the Abstract Truth" without the word "The" in front. I guess I need to change that habit.

Good call, John!

Edited by Free For All

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I'm haven't listened to this one in ages, mainly because I never really got into it all that much when I did spin it. Now that it's an AOTW, though, I'm going to give it a fresh listen. Thanks, John, for making me go into re-evaluation mode on what many consider a major jazz monument.

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About 12 years ago I bought an Impulse compilation with "Stolen Moments" on it. It was something in the range of my 4th jazz cd ever, but the song is still a favorite to this day. Later found the album on vinyl in excellent condition.

I gotta hear some of these other Oliver Nelson albums. The only other ones I have are "Skull Session" and an emusic cdr or two. Sleeping. ^_^

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So much to say. Too much, maybe, for one sitting...

In terms of presenting a coherent and unified vision, capturing a mood, a time, and a place, creating a lingering and ever-deepening fascination, and just in terms of overall mojo, comparisons with Kind Of Blue are not out of line. Not at all.

Oliver Nelson was a truly gifted and multi-faceted artist. I'd go so far as to call him "deep", in the truest sense of the word. Unfortunately, his career path tended to blur, and at too many times obsure, this. But in this album (and in his other unalloyed masterpiece, the all-but-forgotten Black Brown & Beautiful), it's on full display, and the results are as compelling as any music can be.

The reason for this, at least for me, is a fundamental tension, an internal conflict  that is accepted rather than battled against. You can hear it in the compositions and the arrangements, where the lead lines are all pretty upfront and "accessable" and the inner voices are darkly yet subtly dissonant, sometimes extremely so. You can hear it in his playing, where a passive, almost "classical" saxophone tone is used to play lines that burst with harmonic defiance and rhythmic obstinancy (has anybody, other than perhaps Steve Lacy, ever swung so hard by not "swinging"?).

You can especially hear it in how he plays with and against Dolphy (perhaps even moreso on the Prestige dates they made together), a player whose playing is the opposite of Nelson's in nearly every respect. Dolphy's emotions explode without hinderance, Nelson's always threaten to but never do - overt versus implied. I get the feeling that if Nelson was to ever "cut loose" emotionally that the results would've been dangerous, "scorched earth" type stuff in the extreme. but he never, ever. did. In the end, any Nelson/Dolphy collaboration inevitably has Dolphy leaving the most residual "relaxation" in this listener's psyche.

That is no small feat, I believe, and that's what I'm talking about when I say tha Oliver Nelson was a deep cat. The music of few, if any, "jazz" musicians contains so much overwhelming, fundamental tension and inner turmoil that is so fully expressed by not "expressing" it. In this regard, Nelson and the Bill Evans of this general period have a lot in common, and I don't think it's an accident that Evans's presence on this date & KOB is one that without which the music therein would be fundamentally different. The difference in these albums is that on KOB, Evans was being used by the leader to provide a brilliant, foudational amplification of but one aspect of that leader's personality. On Nelson's album, he is used more as a foil - Nelson's internal tensions are at least the equal to Evans', probably even greater. Whereas on KOB, Evans had the role of "defining" the ambiance of the performances. pn BATAT, he's responding to an ambiance that already exists in the most fundamental of ways. If it can be said that Evans was co-designer of the house that is KOB, then it can also be said that on BATAT he was stepping into his "dream house", one entirely of somebody else's design, but one that was more "him" than anything he could've constructed for himself.

Yeah, Blues And The Abstract Truth is a deep album. Hell, the title is deep. Oliver Nelson was a deep cat. Everybody on this album (I'll include Barrow too, just because) is/was a deep cat. You can dive into these waters without fear, but you can never, ever, touch bottom, much less get out on the shallow end. There ain't no shallow end.

Nailed it. This is what I love about web forums. :g

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To the poster who didn't like "Hoedown": Listen again! The way it sets you up for something corny, then smacks you in the face with things that are definitely NOT corny, is masterly. And the finely controlled rage of the tenor solo is amazing. (Check what Sangrey said about swinging by not swinging.)

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I think this is a great choice.

For me, this album is a real test of critical faculty. I love it, but not in the unconditional, instinctive way that I do some albums. For instance, whilst I 'connect' with Dolphy in such a way that I find it difficult coherently to criticise him, I couldn't say the same about Nelson.

I agree to an extent that there's something pent-up about Nelson's playing - and that should he have let go, there may have been 'scorched earth'. But more of what I hear is 'composer's' playing. Architectural (not in any grandiose sense) and ordered; but also perhaps slightly formulaic and rehearsed. The playing on 'Stolen Moments' illustrates this for me: I find his easily the weakest solo.

I wonder how much of my criticism is more of Nelson in more progressive settings (e.g. alongside Dolphy - see also 'Straight Ahead' etc.))? I say this because listening to 'Soul Battle' with King Curtis and Jimmy Forrest the other day, I really enjoyed his playing.

I am for sure more sympathetic to Nelson the composer/arranger than Nelson the soloist. However, just occasionally, the sense of order and architecture seem to me to be too obvious in his compositions/arrangements. For example, 'Cascade' might me something I would practice for dexterity (doesn't he comment somewhere - the liners, perhaps? - that it grew from a technical exercise), but I don't know that it's much as a musical composition...

Interesting point about Dolphy on flute vs. alto on 'Stolen Moments'. I tend to agree. I wonder also how much more 'palatable' Dolphy is made by the sound on this album, which I think is beautiful, but reverb-heavy!

Now - the rhythm section. I am by no means a fan of Evans-school piano playing. But Evans himself, I MUCH prefer playing with these 'harder' rhythm sections. Whereas, for example, there's a little too much 'mush' for my taste with rhythmically more fluid players such as Motian alongside him, with Roy Haynes (as here) or e.g. Philly Joe ('Everybody Digs...'), Evans sounds more coherent, and far less saccharine.

I do enjoy Hubbard's playing on this date. I think playing alongside Dolphy was good for him, whereas I enjoy him less when with a (relatively-speaking) more conservative partner (such as on the various BN appearances).

Dolphy - well... :wub::wub::wub:

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This is so weird. I was just listening to this this morning. Could not sleep. Woke up and relistened to Blues and the Abstract Truth - probably a bad idea in the sense that Freddie's solos keep me humming and thus unable to sleep. I was noting how Dolphy sounds totally out of place on this record but somehow blends in for the ensemble parts and his solos fit to a certain degree (he keeps things relatively tame). Anyways good pick. Have we ever done "More Blues And The Abstract Truth," on which he actually recorded the song, "Blues and the Abstract Truth"? If not, we should.

P.S. speaking of dolphy. I recently discovered a date of his w/ Misha Mengelberg called either "Last Session," or "Last Date." Anyways it was really beautiful and the mix of familiar tunes with originals despite there only being 5 or 6 tunes was really well-executed. And speaking of Mengelberg - y'all need to go out and buy his latest "Senne Sing Song" with Ben Perowsky and Greg Cohen on Tzadik. It is a celebration of his 70th birthday.

cannonball-addict

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Red,

I think the beauty in Nelson's tenor solos is that you know he could go all out and cut loose and wail like Hubbard and Dolphy do on the record but there is a lot to be said for restraint; for not stating the obvious/what one might expect. To be fair though, Freddie doesn't state the same old licks over and over (something which I tend to hate about Lee Morgan - every tune he spits the same old lines, amazing in technique, but boring after a while).

Nelson's solos remind me of Sonny's restraint coupled with Ben Webster's tone/grit....yeah I think that's what it reminds me of....

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I agree to an extent that there's something pent-up about Nelson's playing - and that should he have let go, there may have been 'scorched earth'. But more of what I hear is 'composer's' playing. Architectural (not in any grandiose sense) and ordered; but also perhaps slightly formulaic and rehearsed. The playing on 'Stolen Moments' illustrates this for me: I find his easily the weakest solo.

Objectively, I agree with this. Subjectively, though, I have a different impression. I listen to Nelson's playing here and ask myself why, of all the things that he could have played, why did he play this? And, of all the ways that he could have played it, why did he play it this way? What's the message here?

Of course, that's what we all do, at one level or another, with all music. That's the essence of communication - hearing a message and deciding whether or not we hear it, and then, if we do, figuring out what it means to us. Usually, it happens instantaneously, without any consciousness involved. We either get it or we don't, and that's that.

But Nelson's playing here (and elsewhere) is so "layered" with implications beyond the immediate settings of the music that such an "easy" response has not been possible for me. What I've come to hear in it, finally, is an embodiment of the fundamental American conflicts - "Black" vs "White", "trained" vs "street", "spontaneous" over "planned", "commercial" vs "art", on and on and on. These are the conflicts that have created the friction within American jazz once it became "more" than a "folk music", and they are conflicts that exist to this day. I'd even go so far to say that they are conflicts that exist in all levels of American society, as is witnessed by fascination of so many White people with Black culture, a fascination that often enough leads to ghettoization and unfortunate stereotypes based on a shallow comprehension of the depths of what is being experienced, but also a fascination that exists precisely because there is a contrasting, for lack of a better term, "ethos", a different take between cultures on processing the information provided by the same stimuli and situations. This "cross-pollination" has been at the root of jazz, even when it was a "folk music", and it's also been the "story of America" in a lot of ways.

The thing about Nelson is that, unlike so may others, he doesn't take sides. He's as likely to play a solo on a blues, such as the one on "Stolen Moments", that is more rooted in a European "classical" sensibility than it is in anything else. And he does it without a sense of irony, parody, or any other "signifier" that tells us what we "should" feel/think. Conversely, when he plays in a more overtly "jazz" fashion, his playing is also, usually, devoid of the obvious emotional shortcuts. He obviously has mastered the language, and he obviously understands its deepest meanings, but he doesn't in any way embrace them as being the defining elements of "who he is".

So who is he? That's the question, and its one that Nelson often appears to answer by not even considering the question valid, as it seems to have had no real answer. He could, and very often did, write extremely commercial arrangements that often bordered on generic, yet. paradoxically, they always sounded like Oliver Nelson. Conversely, he could write deeply personal, moody in the extreme pieces, and they too always sounded like Oliver Nelson. The same applies to his playing as well.

In Oliver Nelson's work, I inevitably hear the question of "Who am I?" answered as "I am everything and I am nothing. I can be anything at any time." I also hear the inevitable follow-up question of "What does this mean to me?" answered with "It means everything and it means nothing. It is what it is." Inevitability and ambiguity exist in equal measure and resolution to the fundamental conflict is never sought, perhaps because none is to be found, at least not for/inside Oliver Nelson. "Everything" & "nothing" is all there is to be found, and in the end, there's really no difference between the two. Not for/in Oliver Nelson.

That is "The Blues", and that is "The Abstract Truth".

So

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That's some deep thinking, Jim. Hell, it's brilliant too and AFAIK unique to you. BTW, do you know Nelson's big band "suite" album for Prestige, "Afro-American Sketches"? Great stuff.

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Interesting how - once again - Bill Evans was the catalyst who underpined one of the greatest modal jazz classics.

For me, everything about this album is right:

- Great compositions, pride of place for me being 'Stolen Moments' and 'Cascades'.

- Wonderful arranging for the saxophones. As a result the band sounds a lot bigger than it actually is. The big sound contributed by Nelson on tenor and George Barrow on baritone helps immesurably.

- Phenomenal soloing by Eric Dolphy and Freddie Hubbard. Some of their best on record.

- Incredible recording. RVG manages to pin down a very cool and somewhat misterious mood (helped immensely by Roy Haynes' brushwork on the title track). Creed Taylor's finest hour as producer.

What more can I say?

:tup

Edited by sidewinder

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do you know Nelson's big band "suite" album for Prestige, "Afro-American Sketches"? Great stuff.

No, I've missed that one over the years. No real reason, no real excuse.

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