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JSngry

Oliver Nelson's Liner Notes to BLACK, BROWN AND BEAUTIFUL

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The new Japanese reissue sounds great and looks great, but although they include the front and back covers of the gatefold original, nowhere do they provide Nelson's liner notes, his direct commentary on his own music. I believe the album is incomplete without these notes, and am posting them here. I know that an image of the inside cover is available online, but...this is something I feel I need to do, just because.

 

Quote

 

Writing the liner notes seems to be more difficult than having composed the music for this album. Mainly because I’m confused about the meaning of words.  For instance, the words riot, revolt, dissent, civil disturbance, civil disobedience, violence.

Our country was born from violence, riot, revolt, dissent, civil disobedience, but we record these historical events as The War Of Independence, The Boston Tea Party, The Cicil War, Conquest of the West, etc.  However, when American people of African descent are involved in efforts to achieve Freedom, Justice, The Right To Work, To Educate Their Children, etc., the words Treason and Communism are included with the words Riot, Revolt, Dissent, and Civil Disobedience.

The concept that this country is moving towards two separate societies is true. Our country is Racist, the Churches have failed completely, Uncle Tom is gone forever and the Black, Brown, and White Militants are here to stay.

I wasn’t totally convinced of my own position until after a State Department tour of French West Africa. The countries visited were East and West Cameroon, The Central African Republic, The Republic of Chad, Republic of Niger, The Republic of Mali, Gambia, Senegal and The Republic of Upper Volta. The trip to Africa made me realize once and for all that my roots are here in America. It made me see very clearly that America must change before the Silent Majority elects a George Wallace – which will bring about the inevitable holocaust. The Music on this album reflects some of the events that have made deep impressions upon me over the last two years.

AFTERMATH. The opening sounds here could have well been from the Nazi invasion of Poland or the suppression of the People’s Revolt in Budapest by the Russians, but they weren’t. The sounds heard are by White Americans, Black Americans, American Police returning pistol fire at snipers on rooftops and finally the National Guard brought out by the State Government to put down the Riots and to help put out the fires that ensued. It happened here in America. Many of these events were triggered by the assassination of Martin Luther King.

REQUIEM was written two days after the death of Martin Luther King. Each piano has its own opposing melodic and rhythmic lines which make up the piece. One element is designed to describe Dr. King as a Man with strong non-violent beliefs, while the other piano has a relentless motor rhythm which stops only when the music is finished. Maybe I should have titled this piece “Kill A Man, But You Cannot Kill The Movement.”

LAMB OF GOD means exactly what it says. Martin Luther King was a Lamb Of God, a pawn, a sacrifice.

MARTIN WAS A MAN, A REAL MAN was intended to be for Male Vice and Orchestra. I envisaged a Black Voice of the Paul Robeson or William Warfield variety but somehow I couldn’t find a lyricist in time, so the vocal line is played rather than sung. The piece is derived from the intervals C, F, A, C, which are identical with the note steps used when Taps are played. This is my final salute to a Great Man, a Great American.

Side B reflects my feelings about current America, which has seen the election of a new President, higher taxes to curb inflation and a reversal of the school desegregation guide lines along with sweeping welfare reform.

SELF HELP IS NEEDED. I have always felt that the Federal Government wasn’t going to do a damn thing and American Blacks were going to have to do it themselves. However, you can’t have a foot on your neck making it impossible to help yourself. That seems logical - doesn’t it?

I HOPE IN TIME A CHANGE WILL COME is self-explanatory.

3, 2, 1, 0 is a composition which was written for Maestro Nobuo Hara of Tokyo, and his fine orchestra The Sharps and Flats. Hara-san wanted a composition which would commemorate the Apollo 11 Space Shot and of course the historic Moon Walk by the American Astronauts.  3, 2, 1, 0 is actually a countdown and the ascending scale run is a lift-off. Hara-san wanted a Happy, Blood Going To Your Head composition, pretty much like being in a weightless space environment. The Moon Shot was a great achievement and something I’m sure any 8-year old dreams of doing someday, but I couldn’t help but thinking about the billion dollars it cost and all the hungry people and social problems back here on Earth.

BLACK, BROWN AND BEAUTIFUL is the way I feel about my people. All of them.

REQUIEM, AFTERTHOUGHTS is optimistic somehow. I’ve seen enough of our world to feel that America just may have the guts to stand up and face itself. I hope it doesn’t take too long. Roy Haynes, a truly Great Drummer, happened by on his way back east and we put him to work. A percussion dialogue with Roy Haynes on the left and John Guerin on the right, Roger Kellaway on piano, Chuck Domanic on bass and myself on soprano saxophone.

I wish to express my thanks to Stanley Wilson, Director of Music, Universal Studios, for his fine conducting; Pearl Kaufman for playing a piano line 7 ½ minutes in duration without raising a cry for help and to my old friend Bob (Flying Dutchman) Thiele for the opportunity to complete this project. My thanks also to the many fine musicians involved in this project.

I dedicate this album to Michael LaCoste, my nephew (and a fine musician) and to Oliver, Jr. and Niles Oliver, my two sons.

-  Oliver Nelson

 Los Angeles, California/November 20, 1969

 

 

 

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Fabulous.  Thanks for taking the time to transcribe.

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News that stays news.

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The album arrived yesterday. Whoa! The band plays like it's at once scared of and in love with Nelson. And thanks again for the notes.

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love that clip. Gotta get this. Has a filmic quality. Coulda been from a Hitchcock movie.

 

I always liked Nelson, but missed a certain kind of tension in his arranging (same thing with Carla Bley, btw). This particular recording feels like he was liberated, finally, if somewhat late.

Edited by AllenLowe

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There are other certain/select Nelson (or Nelson-involved) albums that either mostly or partially have that "liberated" feel, but this is the most complete realization, imo. From start to finish.

But keep in mind, the nature of Oliver Nelson is to provide a "mainstream" setting with all the tension (sometimes considerable) underneath/inside. It's interesting to read these liner notes, listen to this music, and then listen to James Brown's Soul On Top, done around the same time, and wonder how Nelson's writing (which is mostly above his normal "commercial" standard) was moved by Brown's then-overt calls for Black Pride and Black Financial Independence.

Either way, Black, Brown and Beautiful is, for me, the apex of Oliver Nelson's writing. Liberated, uncompromised, whatever you want to call it, this is it.

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Printed the liner notes, ordered the CD. Thanks!!

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Thanks for this, JIm. It'll be printed and filed with the reissue, which I was thrilled to get.

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