By the time Oliver Nelson and his big band had recorded Fantabulous in March of 1964 for Argo, the great composer, saxophonist, conductor, and arranger was a man about town in New York. He had released some truly classic dates of his own as a leader in smaller group forms – Blues and the Abstract Truth and Full Nelson among them – and had done arrangement work for everyone from Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Hodges, Nancy Wilson, Frank Wess, King Curtis, Etta Jones, Jimmy Smith, Jack Teagarden, Betty Carter, Billy Taylor, and Gene Ammons, to name more than a few. For Fantabulous, he took his working big band to Chicago for a gig sponsored by Daddy-O-Daylie, a famous local disc jockey.
This Impulse two-fer revives a pair of LPs by arranger, composer, and saxophonist Oliver Nelson, Happenings and Soulful Brass, released in 1966 and 1968, respectively. Happenings, a date with pianist Hank Jones, is the better album, unlike Soulful Brass, which was co-led with comedian/pianist Steve Allen. Unfortunately, both pianists are featured mainly on harpsichord, which tends to dominate, and at times overwhelm, the compositions.
Reissue with DSD remastering. One of the last sessions Oliver Nelson ever recorded – a genius batch of work recorded for the Japanese East Wind label, and maybe one of his greatest albums ever! The set's a wonderful link between the sophisticated large group sounds that Nelson did for Impulse Records in the 60s, and some of the more expansive styles he was trying out on the Flying Dutchman imprint in the 70s – a batch of work that both has that sense of majesty that Nelson could command at his best, but which still retains an earthy vibe overall.
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.
This CD reissue brings back Oliver Nelson's first big-band date as a leader. Meant as a folk album paying tribute to the history of blacks in America, there are such songs as "Jungleaire," "Emancipation Blues," "Going Up North" and "Freedom Dance." Among the soloists are flutist Jerry Dodgion, trumpeter Joe Newman and Nelson himself on tenor and alto. Even this early, Nelson's writing had its own sound; his seven-part suite is well worth hearing. ~ AllMusic