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The Blues and the Abstract Truth

4.8 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 15, 1995

Editorial Reviews

Oliver Nelson had recorded several sessions for Prestige when the fledgling Impulse! label gave him the opportunity to make this septet date in 1961. The result was a rare marriage between an arranger-composer's conception and the ideal collection of musicians to execute it. The material is all based somehow on the blues, but Nelson's structural and harmonic extensions make it highly varied, suggesting ballads, hoedowns, and swing. The band is one of those groupings that seem only to have been possible around 1960, a roster so strong that the leader's name was actually listed fourth on the cover. Nelson shares the solo space with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, alto saxophonist and flutist Eric Dolphy, and pianist Bill Evans, while bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Roy Haynes contribute support and baritone saxophonist George Barrow adds depth. In stark contrast to Dolphy's brilliant, convulsive explosions, Nelson's tenor solos are intriguingly minimalist, emphasizing a tight vibrato and unusual note choices. It's not quite Kind of Blue (nothing is), but Blues and the Abstract Truth is an essential recording, one that helped define the shape of jazz in the '60s. --Stuart Broomer


Oliver Nelson was a jazz arranger, composer, and saxophonist of considerable imagination and skill. With this 1961 recording session, he built on the letter and the spirit of simple unadulterated blues to create timelessly memorable hard bop. Key players Eric Dolphy (flute, alto saxophone), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Bill Evans (piano), Roy Haynes (drums), and Paul Chambers (bass) provide lyricism and propulsion. -- © Frank John Hadley 1993 -- From Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 15, 1995)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Impulse!
  • ASIN: B000003N7E
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,395 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is one of those jazz recordings that managed to capture lightning -- that is to say, recording magic -- in a bottle. Its pacing is perfect, its arrangements sublime, and the first-rate players, all of whom would be worth listening to on their worst day, offer inspired work.
Nelson, a fine tenor player in his own right, is surrounded by extraordinary talent: Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Roy Haynes. But this is Nelson's album: not only does he play beautifully himself, he contributed the compositions and the arrangements, all of which have a note-perfect quality that could only be achieved by an artist in absolute command of his material.
Each tune is a joy in its own right, but the highlight for me (just ahead of the joyful "Hoedown") is "Stolen Moments," which has rightfully become a jazz standard. It's a tune that never fails to remind me of the difference between a true jazz composition and a blowing session. In the latter, solos are taken for their own sake. In "Stolen Moments," the solos are flawless, but each player extends on the previous statement. For example, the transition chord that Bill Evans plays between Oliver Nelson's solo and his own is a perfect reply that shows how carefully he was listening to Oliver's playing. The communication deepens the pleasure of listening to the performance.
Like Miles' "Kind of Blue" and a handful of other jazz albums, "Blues and the Abstract Truth" could be put into a vault for listeners a thousand years hence to find. I'm sure they'd be just as impressed as the rest of us have been.
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Format: Audio CD
Never heard this disc before? Not sure if it would be for you? Read all the customer reviews here and you'll notice several things , with the exception of one four star rating all the others have given it five stars and praise as one of the all time best studio recordings in the field of jazz. Look at the personnel. It is a who's who of the best and leaders in their own right but on this occasion they were under the guidance of Oliver Nelson who writes all the compositions, arranges the music and oh, by the way , plays alto and tenor saxophone on this disc. The music is complex and for musicians who understand the time measurements and even those like myself who are less versed in the structure of music, the music is arranged in simply iiresistible melodies. For those of us who don't understand musical structure but appreciate beautiful harmony it just sounds tight. The structure with each song is one that changes with different harmonic progressions interlaced with outstanding solos by the giants on their perspective instruments, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Bil Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and flute, Roy Haynes on drums and additional saxophone work by George Barrow on barritone and Oliver Neslson on alto and tenor saxophone. This is jazz as it was intended to be in 1961; pure , unadulterated, deep but accessible soulful instumentals based on the blues structure but totally original. Some others have suggested this to be the proverbial desert island music. It definitely ranks way up there on a short list of jazz discs that don't come around very often and as near to perfection as possible.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
One of those albums that over time has entered the legendary category - very much a landmark recording. STOLEN MOMENTS has not only become a jazz standard, but this initial recording of the tune is a masterpiece. Everything and everyone on it just clicks perfectly: Dolphy's solo on flute absolutely demands the listener's attention. And the other tunes are almost just as good, especially HOE-DOWN and CASCADES, both taken up tempo. The album was like a gust of fresh air when it first came out on LP in 1961, and it still sounds fresh today. One of those must-have CDs.
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Format: Audio CD
I can't count the number of times I've had this in my hands at a CD store or in my shopping cart online only to change my mind and go in some other direction. Now I feel like a fool. This moves into my top 10 jazz records with a bullet.

As other reviewers have stated, the All-Star lineup is without reproach. These guys are all top players on their respective instruments, recording in their prime. That is not to say that such a summit of talent ensures sublime results. There is definately magic involved in these performances, a certain simpatico between musicians that creates a work of great feeling and beauty. Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans and Freddie Hubbard all contribute with playing that ranks among the best of their highly successful careers. There is note a weak moment, let alone a weak track. Oliver Nelson's compositions and arrangements are amazing.

I wish that I had picked this up years ago, and I also wonder what some of the titles that I picked up in place of this were. I'm sure there were some good ones that I do not regret buying. I am happy that I now own this classic and wholeheartedly recommend to any other music fan.
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