Oliver Nelson - The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Jun 27, 2020
The History of the Albums - n° 174

Without looking too long, we quickly make out the handful of jazzmen who offered us great albums in 1961. We inevitably think of the solo works of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy or Bill Evans. These are classic albums and a must for all self-respecting jazz lovers. However there is a treasure that few people mention or forget, released the same year, of which Dolphy and Evans are part, it is the breathtaking The Blues and The Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson. If you're ready to get slapped in the face, you've come to the right place. Ultra underestimated, Oliver Nelson is a musician (mainly saxophonist), composer, masterpiece and arranger known only for his cult standard Stolen Moment and his wonderful album The Blues and The Abstract Truth. To tell you how underestimated this artist is, as I do a lot of research in the choice of the albums I select for this series, this is the first time I saw his name. I could have missed out and lived a miserable life, but fortunately not

Born in 1932 in Missouri, he grew up in a family of musicians. So he practiced early. By the time he was just a teenager, he could already play the saxophone and the piano. During his teenage years, at the age of 15, he began performing in local bands. During his military service he discovered new styles/genres of music, especially classical music, which led him to study music and to become a composer as well. It was during this period that he acquired the innovative vision and all the skills to become a true artist. At the very end of the 50's, he moved to New York, because in reality there was no other place to start a career properly. Freshly arrived, he will release his first album Meet Oliver Nelson as a leader in 1959, supported by Kenny Dorham and Ray Bryant. During his first years in New York, Oliver Nelson was very productive, recording after recording. In fact, he is known to have done very little collaboration as a sideman, on the contrary he worked a lot as a composer/arranger

In February 1961 when he recorded, accompanied by a truly brilliant team of Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Paul Chambers, George Barrow and Roy Haynes as a sextet, he reached the pinnacle of his art with The Blues and Abstract Truth. Oliver Nelson has no reason to be ashamed of his peers, but he has never been among the best saxophone tenors in history. Yet, and we can clearly feel it in the success of this album, Oliver Nelson is an incredibly talented composer, leader and arranger. It's fair to say that it makes a real difference. First of all, he was so well known among his peers that he was able to hire such a strong team of musicians. It's a team that Miles Davis or John Coltrane could have by comparison. It's mainly because he had all the weapons to make an album of this class. It's anything but trivial. The album is dominated by the masterpiece Stolen Moment. A very important and influential post-bop piece that laid new foundations in structure, harmonies, teamwork and atmosphere. It is logically the culmination of The Blues and The Abstract Truth, yet like any masterpiece, there are too many insane complementary compositions like Cascades or Yearnin'. The Blues and The Abstract Truth draws (almost) to its paroxysm to make the atmosphere refined and sophisticated, so much so that one has the impression that the instrumentation either transports you by the emotion, or transforms you into a marshmallow. There are all these aspects of elegance that show how over-involved the band is, making the listening experience fantastically captivating
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