Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Oliver Nelson’s masterpiece debuts at Better Records with at least White Hot Stamper sound on both sides. Side one was so HUGE and Tubey Magical we called it at least White Hot – it’s out of this world. If all you know is the Van Gelder original cutting, you will surely have your mind blown by this Hot Stamper LP.  

Side One

So big, tubey and clear you won’t believe it! The best sounding side of any side we played. No smear, no squawk, practically no faults of any kind!

Side Two

Right up there with it. GREAT energy, a big bottom end, smooth and full with the right top end, this side was the clear winner.

My notes read “awesome classic jazz sound” and I think that sums it up quite nicely.

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.

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