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.
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.
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.
Features the high-fidelity SHM-CD format (compatible with standard CD player) and the latest 24bit 192kHz remastering. A brilliant pairing of the Three Sounds trio with the larger arrangements of reedman Oliver Nelson – easily one of the most soulful bandleaders of the 60s, and a talent who really helps open up the trio's groove! The piano of Gene Harris is nice and sharp – played with a soulful sock on both sides of the keyboard – and soaring out over these full charts from Nelson that really sparkle with great touches from players like Plas Johnson on tenor, Lou Blackburn on trombone, Bobby Bryant on trumpet, and both Anthony Ortega and Frank Strozier on alto.
Oliver Nelson's follow-up to his classic Blues & The Abstract Truth session for Impulse – and like that one, a tremendous little album – filled with deep tones and wonderful colors in sound! The group here's a bit larger than before – an ensemble that includes Phil Woods on alto, Ben Webster on tenor, Thad Jones on trumpet, Pepper Adams on baritone, Roger Kellaway on piano, Richard Davis on bass, and Grady Tate on drums. The album includes some superb original compositions by Nelson – just the kind of overlooked jazz numbers that make the set great – and as with most of his arrangements from the time, there's a perfect balance between group force and intimate solo space! Titles include "The Critic's Choice", "Blues & The Abstract Truth", "One For Bob", and 2 versions of Dave Brubeck's "Theme From Mr. Broadway".
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.