Oliver Nelson with Eric Dolphy Straight Ahead (1961) Esquire

Track selection 1: Images

Track Selecton 2: Straight Ahead


Eric Dolphy (as, bcl, fl) Oliver Nelson (ts, as, cl) Richard Wyands (p) George Duvivier (b) Roy Haynes (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 1, 1961


Fantastic combination, “bad boy” Eric Dolphy, and tradition-moulded Oliver Nelson, recorded soon after their “Screamin the Blues” outing. According to the liner notes Nelson set himself the task of being “not Dolphy”. True to form Dolphy is predictably dangerous and unpredictable.

In the title track Straight Ahead , Nelson and Dolphy go head to head, both on alto, trading fours at a frantic tempo. You always know which is which but it’s a Helter Skelter ride.

The selection Images in complete contrast shows Nelson grappling with his classical role-model  Bela Bartok, while Dolphy slips onto bass clarinet to keep everyone in a state of surprise. Mingus/ Ellington but different.

Make no mistake, this is a great record, whatever the cover looks like.


FFS (if in doubt Google it) what has walking down a forest track got to do with Straight Ahead? None of the tracks are “Autumn Leaves”  Esquire drinking  too much Earl Grey? The cover design is bad. Dark, dreary, unrelated to the music.The question is not why Esquire eventually failed, but why it took so long. No reflection on the music or pressing, which are simply Prestige and brilliant.

Vinyl: UK Esquire 32-168 first release of Prestige New Jazz NJLP 8235

Usual Prestige/ New Jazz hallmarking, on quality vinyl. Mono.

Another Sellotape fetishist, alert.

Collectors Corner

Source: eBay                                                                                                               Sellers Description: RARE ‘PRESTIGE’ SET ON SCARCE BRITISH ESQUIRE PRESSING!  VINYL: SHINY M-  SLEEVE: VG+ (TAPE MARKS TO CORNERS OF COVER, NAME WRITTEN TO TOP LEFT BACK CORNER, GENERAL AGE-WEAR)

Oh dear, RARE and SCARCE in the same description. And SHINY. Six bidders but I was happy with the outcome, les than half my maximum bid. That is always such a relief.

Just for fun I run a daily eBay search for jazz records with the word “RARE” in the description. You should try it. The rubbish it pulls up will leave you with sides aching.

3 thoughts on “Oliver Nelson with Eric Dolphy Straight Ahead (1961) Esquire

  1. Deliberate mistake of the day. I have just realised that ‘The Blues and the Abstract Truth’ was recorded a few weeks BEFORE ‘Straight Ahead’ and not after. Interesting that Oliver Nelson reverted to the rhythm section he used on ‘Screamin’ the Blues’ rather than the 5 star section he had lined up for the ‘Abstract’ recording.


  2. Just on first hearing today I miss the contracts afforded by the 3rd horn as can be found on the earlier ‘Screamin’ (Richard Williams) and later ‘Abstract’ (Freddie Hubbard) recordings. Perhaps I need to listen a few more times before giving a final verdict!


  3. This is a favourite. Great session, I love Nelson’s desire for structure and composition. And Dolphy is the great anachistically minded, unpredictable factor. Beautiful music. The esquire sounds amazing, no need to find the US original. Thanks for the review


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