Oliver Nelson “The Blues and the Abstract Truth” (1961)

Track Selection: “Stolen Moments” (8:45)  I>


Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto sax, flute; Oliver Nelson, alto, tenor sax, arranger; George Barrow, baritone sax; Bill Evans, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Roy Haynes, drums. Recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 23, 1961


Wiki offers this penetrating technical analysis: “Of the pieces on Nelson’s album, “Stolen Moments” is the most famous; it is a sixteen-bar piece (in an eight-six-two pattern), though the solos are on a conventional 12-bar minor-key blues structure in C minor”  There you have it in a nutshell. Like a list of chemicals which make up the human body, minus the all important ingredient, “life”.

A commentator on the Organissimo forum put it a little more expressively:
” Yeah, Blues And The Abstract Truth is a deep album. Hell, the title is deep. Oliver Nelson was a deep cat. Everybody on this album – I’ll include Barrow too, just because –  is/was a deep cat. You can dive into these waters without fear, but you can never, ever, touch bottom, much less get out on the shallow end. There ain’t no shallow end”
Phew! Wish I had written that! That cat certainly “got it”. You can read more here :
Gatefold inner

The big picture occupies the inner gatefold, that would usually have been the liner notes on the back of the flipback cover. But you get the bonus of a strange sculpture photographed performing to a microphone. Musician meets technology, I can go with that.

Labels, Run-out and Liner Notes

Original US Impulse labels I believe, made in USA, (though I am in no way an authority on Impulse!) They look right and more importantly sound right to me.

Well Lah-di-Dah, if its not the RVG machine stamp, Van Gelder moonlighting for Impulse. I thought the recording sounded better than some other Impulses I have.

Auditioning this record over the shop music system nearly put me off buying it – prominent clicks and pops, and what sounded like a long repeating scratch at the beginning. The run-out here shows what filthy condition the surface was in. Without the benefit of a record cleaning machine, that is what your record will sound like each time you play it.

After a good cleaning cycle (wash and rinse colourfast cotton, gas mark 4) , everything is virtually pristine. Few if any clicks and pops remain, restored lustre, and that scratch at the start was sticky goo, probably from someone in 1965 eating a jam sandwich while handling the record. Goo disappeared without trace, like the sandwich. And people tell me record cleaning machines are an expensive luxury.

Collector Notes

Fruits of a visit to a suburban London record store, open only three days a week, surviving on ageing rock and pop enthusiasts trying to recover the best years of their youth. Every five minutes some hopeful middle-aged couple would struggle in with a box of records from an attic clearance session – the entire Cliff Richard discography, Mantovani pop classics, embarassing Eighties heartthrobs, superficial fads and fancies, not a collectible item among them.  After a cursory inspection the owner would tactfully point towards the nearby recycling centre (previously known as “the municipal dump”). Crestfallen, couple exits shop with same box in arms. To be replaced five minutes later by another hopeful couple clutching a couple of carrier bags of – Cliff Richard LPs, Mantovani…

In a small corner is his stock of collectible jazz, and among them, some gems which have gathered dust for years in the absence of well, someone like LondonJazzCollector. One look at the line up – Bill Evans!!, Eric Dolphy!!, Paul Chambers!! Freddie Hubbard!! – woa – Why don’t I know this record? I must have this.

£20 changed hands, and the bus journey home was uplifted by reading the sleeve notes. Its a beautiful cover too. And a good clean later, the rich full tones of an original Impulse US press woke up the street.

21 thoughts on “Oliver Nelson “The Blues and the Abstract Truth” (1961)

  1. On early Impulse liners it has this album as the All Stars. It was only on re-release with the updated cover that Oliver Nelson got top billing.


  2. I’ve just returned to this post because I’m playing my later “blue portrait of Nelson” pressing and I wanted to see what LJC had made of it… It is simply one of the great Sixties jazz records. I first heard this in about 1974 or thereabouts and have been listening to it ever since. In that sense it was one of the gateway to jazz records for me. What to make of it — I was barely twenty, most names on jazz record sleeves were just that, names, and there wasn’t an internet to look things up on… It was truly a voyage of discovery — an
    D the records I did discover during that period I gradually learned to love and they now seem a permanent part of my mental furniture.

    I adore Nelson’s solo on stolen Moments — it may well be the best he ever played. What a bargain for twenty quid.


    • so alunsevern we are almost peers as I was born the year Charlie Chan played Massey Hall in Toronto. This Nelson record is a must have for all jazz lovers and is, to my knowledge, one of the two only Impulse to have the first cover changed shortly after release. don’t know the reason. the other is Archie Shepp Fire Music, Impulse A 86, discussed elsewhere.
      as LJC wrote (Some of us are here for the first time. Seems others have been here for a long time. Its a great place to be, isn’t it?), yes IT IS, for me a sort of living room to talk to friends to exchange infos, to have a lot of fun.
      thanks Andrew and all.


      • dottorjazz, I had to Google that reference: 15th May 1953. Happy forthcoming 61st birthday! Yes, this is one of the best jazz “destinations” on the internet, and at the risk of making LJC’s head swell further than is already the case, he deserves some kind of award for services to the jazz community — a blue plaque or a medal or perhaps a bottle of scotch and a full syringe (take your choice) and a couple of packs of unfiltered cigarettes. Maybe a chicken dinner (Bird would eat two or three at a sitting but I think we can probably count on LJC to exercise greater restraint). Anyway, whatever it is, there should be something — and we should fall to our knees and in loud voice nominate Mr LondonJazzCollector. Salud.


    • James, by now this link to Ebay no longer works. However, I just scored a mono copy of this album through Ebay. It is a mono ABC Paramount pressing w/ RVG in the deadwax on one side. The other side has ‘Bell Sound’ written in the deadwax in italics, but no ‘RVG.’ In reading on the Hoffman Forum about Bell Sound a little bit, “Know What I Mean?” (Bill Evans / Cannonball Adderley) was recorded @Bell Sound instead of the usual studio and is supposedly one of the better sounding Riverside Bill Evans albums. So I’m not all that worried about how it’ll sound but just thought that was pretty interesting to find that in the deadwax….


  3. Excellent–glad it cleaned up so nicely. What a great record. I’ve had the CD for a long time and recently got a nice Speakers Corner/Impulse LP reissue. I’ve seen to covers for this record–what’s the story on that?


    • The first version, as far as I can tell, was recorded on Sept. 20, 1960 titled “The Stolen Moment”. It’s on Prestige P 7206 “Trane Whistle – Eddie Lockjaw Davis Big Band”. Nelson, George Barrow, Eric Dolphy and Roy Haynes are among the line-up, but Dolphy does not solo. It clearly is the tenor player’s showcase.


  4. oh man, i love this album.
    1st it’s the lineup, than it’s the compositions and 3rd it’s the blues and it’s kinda variations that
    makes me feel so close to this album already 18 years or so.
    great version of stolen moments !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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