Because the personnel include Louis Armstrong, Lillian Hardin, and Johnny and Baby Dodds, the 1923 recordings of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, originally made for the Gennett, OKeh, Columbia, and Paramount labels, have been reissued numerous times as formats have changed and technology has improved. Here, the Canadian label Off the Record (distributed in the U.S. by Archeophone Records) puts 37 tracks on two CDs, having made transfers from the most pristine 78-rpm discs available.
Oliver Nelson makes a great appearance here with the Sharps & Flats group of Nobuo Hara – an excellent Japanese ensemble who are clearly inspired by Nelson's soulful arrangements of the 60s! Oliver's the reed soloist on the album, not the leader – and it's great to hear him getting a bit of his own sort of treatment while stretching out as an individual voice – free to remind us that he's also a hell of a soloist when he wants to be, with reed talents that work perfectly with the larger sense of tone from the bigger group! Nelson plays soprano sax wonderfully on a few cuts.
Although the musical Oliver! was a successful musical (both in London and the U.S.), pianist Bob Dorough was one of the few (maybe only) jazz musicians who saw the possibilities to improvise upon its music. Omitting vocals on this occasion, Dorough examines both the dramatic nature of the 11 songs as well as finding humor within some of them. "Boy for Sale" is very moody, featuring Al Schackman on bouzoukee (not exactly an instrument heard on the common jazz date), while he switches to classical guitar for a bossa nova arrangement of the normally plaintive ballad "Where Is Love?" and sticks to electric guitar on the rest of the date…
Oliver Nelson was one of the more distinctive arrangers to be active in jazz, the studios, and popular music of the '60s. While most Nelson reissues focus on his always-excellent saxophone playing (whether on tenor or alto), this six-CD set, Argo, Verve and Impulse Big Band Studio Sessions, focuses on Oliver Nelson the arranger-composer-bandleader. He does take solos on some of these dates on tenor, alto,and soprano (his only recorded solos on that instrument), but it his writing that takes center stage.