Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth

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  • Oliver Nelson’s masterpiece returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Clean, clear and present with a solid bass foundation, as well as the big stage this big group of musicians needs
  • If all you know is Van Gelder’s original cutting, you will surely have your eyes and ears opened by this wonderful Hot Stamper
  • Allmusic calls this album “…his triumph as a musician for the aspects of not only defining the sound of an era… but on this recording, assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever.” 5 Stars (of course)

The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here.

For those record lovers who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this record will hopefully set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true.

We tested this very proposition in our recent shootout, as well as in previous ones of course. It is our contention, based on the experience of hearing quite a number of copies over the years, that Rudy did not cut the original record as well as he should have. For those of you who would like to know who did, we proudly offer this copy to make the case.

Three words say it all: Hearing is believing.

(And if you own any modern Heavy Vinyl reissue we would love for you to be able to appreciate all the musical information that you’ve been missing when playing it. I remember the one from the ’90s on Impulse being nothing special, and the Speakers Corner pressing in the 2000s if memory serves was passable at best.)

What the best sides of this vintage pressing have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack the full complement of harmonic information.

In addition, when the top end is lacking, the upper midrange and high frequencies get jammed together — the highs can’t extend up and away from the upper mids. This causes a number of much-too-common problems that we hear in the upper midrange of many of the records we play: congestion, hardness, harshness, and squawk. (Painstaking VTA adjustment is absolutely critical if you want your records to play with the least amount of these problems, a subject we discuss in the Commentary section of the site at length.)

Tube smear is common to most pressings from the ’50s and ’60s. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have little or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Full-bodied sound is especially critical to the horns; any blare, leanness or squawk ruins at least some of the fun, certainly at the louder levels the record should be playing at.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right musically and tonally from top to bottom.

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Hi-Fidelity

What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange.

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.

Musicians

Oliver Nelson – alto saxophone, tenor saxophone 
Eric Dolphy – flute, alto saxophone
George Barrow – baritone saxophone
Freddie Hubbard – trumpet
Bill Evans – piano
Paul Chambers – bass
Roy Haynes – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Stolen Moments 
Hoe Down
Cascades

Side Two

Yearnin’ 
Butch And Butch
Teenie’s Blues

AMG 5 Star Review

As Oliver Nelson is known primarily as a big band leader and arranger, he is lesser known as a saxophonist and organizer of small ensembles. Blues and the Abstract Truth is his triumph as a musician for the aspects of not only defining the sound of an era with his all-time classic “Stolen Moments,” but on this recording, assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever.

Lead trumpeter Freddie Hubbard is at his peak of performance, while alto saxophonists Nelson and Eric Dolphy (Nelson doubling on tenor) team to form an unlikely union that was simmered to perfection. Bill Evans (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums) can do no wrong as a rhythm section…

A must buy for all jazz fans, and a Top Ten or Top Fifty favorite for many.

Wikipedia Notes

Writing in the December 21, 1961 issue of Down Beat magazine jazz critic Don DeMicheal commented: “Nelson’s playing is like his writing: thoughtful, unhackneyed, and well constructed. Hubbard steals the solo honors with some of his best playing on record. Dolphy gets off some good solos too, his most interesting one on “Yearnin’.”

The Jazz Journal International cited the album as “one of the essential post-bop recordings.”

Background

The album is an exploration of the mood and structure of the blues, though only some of the tracks are structured in the conventional 12-bar blues form. In this regard, it may be seen as a continuation of the trend towards greater harmonic simplicity and subtlety via reimagined versions of the blues that was instigated by Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue in 1959 (Evans and Chambers played on both albums).

Among the pieces on the album, “Stolen Moments” is the best known: a sixteen-bar piece in an eight-six-two pattern, even though the solos are in a conventional 12-bar minor-key blues structure in C minor.

“Hoe-Down” is built on a forty-four-bar structure (with thirty-two-bar solos based on “rhythm changes”). “Cascades” modifies the traditional 32-bar AABA form by using a 16-bar minor blues for the A section, stretching the form to a total of 56 bars.

The B-side of the album contains three tracks that hew closer to the 12-bar form: “Yearnin'”, “Butch and Butch” and “Teenie’s Blues” (which opens with two 12-bar choruses of bass solo by Chambers).

Wikipedia