OLIVER NELSON The Blues And The Abstract Truth (Speakers Corner)
This album, the product of one particularly fruitful February Thursday in 1961, showcases what's practically a jazz supergroup, starring (as the sleeve quite rightly puts it) Paul Chambers, Eric Dolphy, Roy Haynes, Freddie Hubbard and Bill Evans. It's immediately engaging, locating a satisfying groove midway between "Kind Of Blue" (on which Evans and Chambers played) and "Blue Train" (Nelson's own sleevenotes acknowledge the influence of Coltrane). Dolphy's fluttering flute solo is breathtaking, an all too alien sound in jazz. "Hoe-Down" is almost comic in its zest, the kind of unpretentious piece it's impossible to imagine not cheering the listener. It's playful like Sonny Rollins (also credited by Nelson as an influence) circa "Way Out West". "Yearnin'" is among the bluesier pieces here, but even this models unexpected quicksilver twists and turns. Dolphy wails out a jarring, discordant alto solo, Eric as usual bringing the sandpaper-toned craziness when opportunity allows. "Butch And Butch" maintains the album's earlier sprightliness, scored in a manner that makes the ensemble, briefly swelled to a septet, sound more like a concert band.
If I had to pick only one album to define and explain jazz to somebody who knew absolutely nothing about the genre (such as myself, perhaps) "The Blues And The Abstract Truth" would almost certainly be amongst the half-dozen I'd choose. Speakers Corner's reissue, albeit now superseded by vinyl pressings with even higher claims to fi, is another fine example of their work: the glossy packaging is deliciously tactile, and the sound's very good, although, being from the early days of stereo, everybody seems to be crammed into one speaker or another, with precious little going on in between.