Oliver Nelson “Afro American Sketches” (1961)

track selection: “Emancipation Blues”  I>

PRLP 7225  Jerry Kail, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Joe Wilder (tp) Paul Faulise, Urbie Green, Britt Woodman (tb) Ray Alonge, Jim Buffington, Julius Watkins (frh -1,2) Don Butterfield (tu) Jerry Dodgion (as, fl) Oliver Nelson (as, ts, arr) Eric Dixon (ts, fl -3/5) Bob Ashton (ts, fl, cl) Arthur Clarke (bars -3/5) Peter Makas, Charles McCracken (vlc) Patti Brown (p -3/5) Art Davis (b) Ed Shaughnessy (d) Ray Barretto (cga, bgo)  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 29, 1961

Original Prestige US cover:

Nelsons first outing as a big band leader, walking in the shoes of Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown Beige” It is worth quoting another source for the background to this composition:

I (Nelson) didn’t know a lot about Africa, African people and culture and most important, nothing about African music and rhythm.”  Embarking on intense study of those subjects, Nelson spanned his musical portrayals from conflicts between African natives and slave traders to the contemporary civil-rights Freedom Riders of 1961.  “I have at last realized the importance of my African and Negro heritage,” Nelson concluded in the liner notes, “and through this enlightenment I was able to compose 40 minutes of original music which is a true extension of my musical soul.”

David Brent Johnson

Luckily, the photographer on the cover shoot knew enough about geography to pose Nelson in front of the right continent – something I  read caused the currrent US President some difficulty as regards the location of his heritage, Hawaii.

It is a big band performance and an orchestral composition, so a little different from the usual small group improvisation I am used to, but I think it merits attention. I have never listened to Duke  Ellington big band, my loss, but a small toe in the water of the jazz heritage from which much of my current tastes are derived. More familiar territory is struck two minutes into the sample track Emancipation Blues.

Labels, run-out and liner notes

UK Esquire release labels for PRLP 7225

Rudy Van Gelder’s imprint from the original Prestige master

Collectors notes

Jazz Orchestra is not everyones cup of tea, Oliver Nelson is not widely known outside the jazz fraternity, so the North London record store manager priced the record down, at £12. I thought low, given its Esquire pedgree.

The record make perfect musical sense in the context of my other recent blues-driven records from Oliver Nelson, “Screaming the Blues” and “The Blues and the Abstract Truth”. Jazz of a different hue to modal and cool, a richer hotter musical palette.

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