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The Oliver Nelson Verve/Impulse Big Band Sessions (#233)Mosaic Records Limited Edition Box Set
“Oliver Nelson was perhaps the greatest jazz orchestrator and composer of the postwar era. This set which contains 15 albums and 100 tracks is a testament to Nelson’s frenetic activity and to the quality of his music” – Will Friedwald, The New York Sun
Limited Edition: 10000 copies
6 CDs - $102.00
Thirty years after Oliver Nelson's sudden and tragic death, we at Mosaic Records believe it's high time for a major re-evaluation of his music and we are reviving an important compilation that has never been available before.
As varied and surprising as they are, his compositions are unmistakable, two bars into the tune. There's that signature cluster sound in the woodwinds, playing odd inversions of chords with even odder discordant visitors. Vibrato is W-I-D-E. Crescendos build a tiny, backroom blues combo into a wall of sound. Trumpeters squawk into plungers. And in everything the drummer is kicking, the saxophones are swinging, and the lead trumpeter is sailing.
Then, there is his instrumentation. Anything to get the effect he desired. Woodwind players double on piccolo, English horn, bassoon, and bass clarinet; count on marimba, vibraphone, and celeste in the percussion section; and among the horn players, someone better have brought along a bass trombone and tuba.
In addition to dates he led under his own name, the set includes the music from sessions he wrote, scored and conducted under the names Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz All Stars and the Jazz Impressions Orchestra; a date for Shirley Scott and another for Ray Brown and Milt Jackson; five sessions with organist Jimmy Smith and another headlined by Smith and Wes Montgomery; and an awesome date from 1967 co-chaired by Oliver Nelson and the incomparable Pee Wee Russell. Our collection includes 90 tracks, spanning 1962 to 1967.
It's nice to know so many musicians and composers credit Oliver Nelson as a major influence. Now, at last, you can appreciate why.
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Track Listing, Personnel & Recording Dates »
"Nelson was at the peak of his formidable prowess as a writer, arranger and soloist during the five-years ('62-'67) that this set covers. This made it easy for him to attract the best studio and featured players into a situation where they would be challenged technically and artistically while bringing to life wonderfully visceral music that balances intricacy and delicacy with swing and swagger." - James Lamperetta, The Saratogian
- Audio Quality
- Sample Session Notes
In the age of microsizing, every Mosaic Records Box Set booklet is still 11 x 11 inches to allow our customers to appreciate all the extras we put into printing them (and for easier reading).
This set boasts big band sessions gloriously captured by some of New York’s finest recording engineers (Ray Hall, Bob Simpson, Bob Arnold and Rudy Van Gelder) all lovingly mastered in 24 bit by Malcolm Addey.
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The booklet is rich in beautiful images from the actual sessions by Chuck Stewart.
Jazzhattan Suite is the only recording in this collection in which Nelson was given the chance to showcase the full range of his compositional abilities in a jazz context. The Jazz Interactions Orchestra was in actuality a slightly augmented assemblage of the usual suspects working under yet another assumed name. Jazz Interactions was an organization dedicated to spreading the message of jazz to the public, and increasing the amount of performance opportunities for musicians. At the time of this recording, Jazz Interactions was quite prominent in New York and presented a long-running series of well attended Sunday afternoon performances, first at The Top of the Gate, an airy room located upstairs from the Village Gate, and later at The Red Garter, a cavernous Dixieland club with garish dark red décor (Pepper Adams once said it looked like Sophie Tucker’s tomb), and a bandstand on a huge flatbed fire truck. Two of the organization’s co-founders, Alan Pepper and Stan Snadowsky, later bought the building housing The Red Garter and resurrected it as the renowned, recently defunct Bottom Line.
Through the efforts of Jazz Interactions, Jazzmobile Inc., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and several other organizations, October 7th 1967 was designated by mayoral proclamation as Jazz Day in New York City. Jazzhattan Suite was commissioned for this event. The suite was performed twice that day: in the afternoon in Central Park, and in the evening at the Met. All this occurred at a time when the New York jazz community was making some good advances in gaining wider acceptance for the music, yet somehow seemed unable to pass up any opportunity to shoot itself in the foot. I recall attending the Central Park concert, at which a group of angry musicians were carrying picket signs protesting Nelson’s use of “studio” musicians, the term “studio” being code for the half of the band whose epidermis contained noticeably less melanin than that of the other half. One man’s personal and artistic integrity is another man’s political incorrectness. So what else is new?
The suite opens with A Typical Day In New York, which is constructed in an arch-like form, which builds gradually, peaks in the middle, and telescopes back in on itself. After a stately introduction in 4/4, the main theme, stated by clarinets, is in 9/8 meter, subdivided 2+2+2+3. The middle section, in 3/4, features an absolutely diabolical passage in 16th notes based mainly on ascending fourths, which is first stated in octaves by Patti Bown on piano, later joined by the clarinets. Patti Bown’s name is seldom mentioned among those of pioneering female jazz musicians, yet she was one of the first women to break into the freelance studio recording scene as an instrumentalist. An earthy, vivacious woman with a great sense of humor, she played with a powerful sense of swing, was always full of musical surprises and, as her work on this track shows, must have grown up practicing Hanon exercises till her fingers bled. The East Side , The West Side is a blues in 9/4. Nelson makes use of several odd meters throughout this suite and, as on this track his use of them usually feels organic, free flowing and musically appropriate, in contrast to the self- conscious, gimmicky manner in which many jazz composers used them at the time. As in the works of his idol, Duke Ellington, Nelson’s extended works are notable for their treatment of the blues in a great variety of rhythmic grooves and tone colors. One For Duke is the blues once again in an obvious tribute to Ellington. It is replete with Dukish touches including the angular melody line, plunger-muted brass, and some densely voiced writing for the clarinet-led reed section with plenty of contrary motion in the individual lines. Patti Bown contributes an energetic solo, followed by Zoot Sims in his distinctive style, in which he seems to be laughing and crying at the same time. The solos are topped off by something you don’t hear every day: some spirited four-bar exchanges between two great bassists, George Duvivier and Ron Carter. The suite ends with Complex City which begins quietly with French horns and vibraphone prominent. This section is followed by a clarinet and xylophone-dominated section that sounds like Gershwin’s An American In Paris On LSD. When things settle into a 6/4 groove we are back in blues territory with the theme stated by Woods’s alto. This is followed by an exposition of several short melodic cells in a series of shifting meters in which Nelson makes imaginative use of the clarinet choir. The blues theme is then stated in a hard swinging 4/4, leading to solos by Bown, Sims, and Newman, with vigorous hand-in-glove backing from Ed Shaughnessy’s drums and Bob Rosengarden’s bongos. The piece ends with a return to the original 6/4 blues section and builds to a powerful finale
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"This set couldn't get any better.The arrangements are solid, and moving. Big band so tight its hard to hear any flaws."
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