THE PROLIFIC OLIVER NELSON.
In my travels around the musical blogsphere, I’ve discovered and consumed many new artists, discovered coutnless hours of amazing music and found some new treasured favourites. The work of Oliver Nelson is one of those treasured finds. Nelson was in the late 50’s to late 60’s one of the most prolific jazzmen out there. Starting from playing alto saxophone with Quincy Jones amongst others, he moved into his own solo albums (I highly recommend Blues And The Abstract Truth for some fine ‘stolen moments’) and consumate arranger, he worked with personal favourites Wes Montgomery and flautist Frank Wess. The world of TV and film soundtracks overtook his arranging and jazz band work in those years, composing for such stone cold classics such as Ironside and the Six Million Dollar Man right through to the 1970’s where he recorded his Skull Session album on the Flying Dutchman label. Nelson died suddenly of a heart attack in 1975 at the age of 43. But left a prolific legacy.
My favourite album from him is actually one of his most obscure engagements. The Jazz Interactions Orchestra was a mysterious cover for the cream of West Coast Jazzers to bang out some of Nelson’s funkiest work. The Jazzhattan Suite is (unsurprisingly) a musical interpretation of the sounds and moods of New York. Done in classic Jazz orchestra style. The whole album is a joy from start to finish, but one track has always stood out for me; The East Side/The West Side. It’s got all the best bits of a jazz song for me, it is undeniably funky, with killer saxophone solos that don’t outlast their welcome and drive the song forward, getting faster and faster. The little breakdowns in the middle of the first quarter of the song are unexpected and keep you on your toes. The music perfectly complements the two contrasting sides of Manhattan, the crazy energy of the westside and the cool strut of the east. You can really tell that his work had already started to move into TV and film as this is an undeniably cinematic piece of music. You can find the rest of the album here, but for your listening pleasure here’s the Jazz Interactions Orchestra.