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The Argo, Verve and Impulse Big Band Studio Sessions

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Album Review

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. Included are his albums Full Nelson, Fantabulous, Jazzhattan Suite (which finds the ensemble called the Jazz Interactions Orchestra), Sound Pieces, and his unusual and reverent tribute set Musical Tribute to JFK: The Kennedy Dream. In addition, Nelson's writing for Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz All Stars is here, plus his contributions (usually just part of each record) for sets by organist Shirley Scott (Roll 'Em), a group co-led by Ray Brown and Milt Jackson, and clarinetist Pee Wee Russell (The Spirit of '67). Topping off this well-conceived box are all of the music for organist Jimmy Smith's Hobo Flats, Peter and the Wolf (a classic jazz version), and Smith's first collaboration with guitarist Wes Montgomery, plus a few numbers from Smith's Bashin', Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Hootchie Coochie Man. In addition to the playing of Jimmy Smith (who was really at his peak during this period), Wes Montgomery, Shirley Scott, and Pee Wee Russell, the most memorable soloists are altoist Phil Woods, cornetist Nat Adderley (on the Feather date), and flugelhornist Clark Terry plus Nelson himself. There is plenty of classic material here (such as the Smith/Montgomery blues jamming on "Down by the Riverside") which, even when the big-band writing is secondary, serves as a superior tribute to the underrated Oliver Nelson.


Born: June 4, 1932 in St. Louis, MO

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

Oliver Nelson was a distinctive soloist on alto, tenor, and even soprano, but his writing eventually overshadowed his playing skills. He became a professional early on in 1947, playing with the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra and with St. Louis big bands headed by George Hudson and Nat Towles. In 1951, he arranged and played second alto for Louis Jordan's big band, and followed with a period in the Navy and four years at a university. After moving to New York, Nelson worked briefly with Erskine Hawkins,...
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The Argo, Verve and Impulse Big Band Studio Sessions, Oliver Nelson
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  • $44.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Hard Bop
  • Released: 2006

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