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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke



Oliver Nelson

RCAVICTOR Gold Series 74321887132

  1. Skull Session
  2. Reuben’s Rondo
  3. 125th St and 7th Ave.
  4. One for Duke
  5. Dumpy Mama
  6. Baja Bossa
  7. In a Japanese Garden
  8. Flight for Freedom

Tracks 1, 5 & 8

Lonnie Liston Smith – Electric & Acoustic Pianos
Mike Wofford – Arp & Piano
Chuck Domanico – Bass
Dennis Budmir, Lee Ritenour – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Billy Green, Billy Perkins – Tenor
Jerome Richardson – Alto Sax & Flute
Bobby Bryant, Oscar Brashear – Trumpets
Shelly Manne, Willie Bodo – Percussion
Jimmy Gordon – Drums

Tracks 2, 3 & 4

As previously, but Billy Perkins changes to Baritone.
Buddy Collette and Bud Shank added on Tenor
Paul Hubinon, Buddy Childers added on Trumpet
Grover Mitchell, Richard Nash, Chauncey Walsh, Maurice Spears- Trombones
Vinnie DeRosa, Davis Allan Duke – French Horns
Don Waldrop – Tuba

Tracks 6 & 7

Mike Wofford – Electric Piano & Harpsichord
Chuck Domanico – Bass
Laurindo Almeida – Guitar
Jerome Richardson – Alto
John Kelson – Baritone & Bass Clarinet
Buddy Collette – Clarinet, Tenor & Alto Flutes
Bud Shank – Alto, Clarinet, Alto Flute
Bobby Bryant - Trumpet & Flugel
Willie Bobo – Percussion
Shelly Manne – Drums

All tracks arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson.

Digitally re-mastered from 1975 tapes

Anyone, who has been fortunate enough to play in a band that uses Oliver Nelson arrangements, will vouch for how clever and musical they are. On this session he was asked to include electronic instruments and incorporate the rhythms they are often associated with them. This has been attempted before and usually results in the most horrible ‘hodgepodge’ of sounds that please no one. Oliver Nelson however succeeds in incorporating the newer instruments without detracting in any way from the normal quality of his work. This is a very good album; every track is an original composition with a strong melody line and an imaginative arrangement.

The original 1975 sleeve note by Nat Hentoff is, as one would have expected from such a highly revered writer on jazz, interesting and informative. Personally, I feel the music which is now 27 years old, deserves another written piece putting it in context with today’s scene and other Oliver Nelson albums, but keeping the original as well is a must.

Skull Session, the title track starts out like an instrumental rock number, but it isn’t long before the jazz influence is felt. The standard of jazz solos is what you would expect from California’s top session men. Nat Hentoff and Oliver Nelson comment in the sleeve notes on the Trumpet playing of Oscar Brashear, I am surprised that we have not heard a lot more of him. I assume the Billy Perkins referred to, is the Bill Perkins Kenton band fans know and love.

Ruebens Rondo has a very strong theme and the arrangement has a distinct West Coast Big Band flavour that is very much to my liking. Jerome Richardson provides a very accomplished Alto solo and the whole band sounds very polished in this one. Track 3 is dedicated to the NY equivalent of Speaker’s corner in London. Bill Perkins on Baritone has the lead in the Sax soli.

Track 4, One for the Duke, has the Ducal sound but includes a good electric piano solo from Lonnie Liston Smith. I can’t imagine the Duke on electric piano, but that begs the point of the album. Dumpy Mama and Baja Bossa continue the Big Band feel, but in the last two tracks the guitar of Laurindo Almeida is introduced, giving another dimension to the music, this time with a smaller band.

This is s very fine album, which lives up to Oliver Nelson’s tremendous reputation as an arranger and composer.

Don Mather

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