The Blues and the Abstract Truth

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The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Mono LP cover (A-5)/1995 US CD issue
Studio album by Oliver Nelson
Released August 1961
Recorded February 23, 1961
Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs
Genre Post-bop[1]
Length 36:33
Label Impulse!
Producer Creed Taylor
Oliver Nelson chronology
The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Straight Ahead
Alternate cover
Stereo LP cover (AS-5)/1990 US CD issue
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[2]
Music sample

The Blues and the Abstract Truth is a jazz album by American jazz saxophonist Oliver Nelson recorded in February 1961. It remains Nelson's most acclaimed album and features a lineup of notable musicians: Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy (his second-to-last appearance on a Nelson album following a series of collaborations recorded for Prestige), Bill Evans (his only appearance with Nelson), Paul Chambers and Roy Haynes. Baritone saxophonist George Barrow does not take solos, but still remains a key feature in the subtle voicings of Nelson's arrangements.


The album is an exploration of the mood and structure of the blues, though only some of the tracks are structured in the conventional 12-bar blues form. In this regard, it may be seen as a continuation of the trend towards greater harmonic simplicity and subtlety via reimagined versions of the blues that was instigated by Miles Davis's Kind of Blue in 1959 (Evans and Chambers played on both albums).

Among the pieces on the album, "Stolen Moments" is the best known: a sixteen-bar piece in an eight-six-two pattern, even though the solos are in a conventional 12-bar minor-key blues structure in C minor. "Hoe-Down" is built on a forty-four-bar structure (with thirty-two-bar solos based on "rhythm changes"). "Cascades" modifies the traditional 32-bar AABA form by using a 16-bar minor blues for the A section, stretching the form to a total of 56 bars. The B-side of the album contains three tracks that hew closer to the 12-bar form: "Yearnin'", "Butch and Butch" and "Teenie's Blues" (which opens with two 12-bar choruses of bass solo by Chambers).

Nelson's later album, More Blues and the Abstract Truth (1964), features an entirely different (and larger) group of musicians and bears little resemblance to this record.


The Jazz Journal International cited the album as "one of the essential post-bop recordings."[1]

In 2008 pianist Bill Cunliffe released the tribute album The Blues and the Abstract Truth, Take 2, featuring new arrangements of the original pieces.


The tune "Stolen Moments" has been covered by numerous musicians including Frank Zappa, Ahmad Jamal, Booker Ervin, the United Future Organization and the Turtle Island Quartet.

"Teenie's Blues" was used as a 2009 show-opener by Steely Dan.[3]

Oliver Nelson's solo in the bridge of "Hoe-Down" was used by Ernie Watts and Lee Ritenour to make the theme "Bullet Train" on the album Friendship from 1979.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Nelson.
  1. "Stolen Moments" – 8:46
  2. "Hoe-Down" – 4:43
  3. "Cascades" – 5:32
  4. "Yearnin'" – 6:24
  5. "Butch and Butch" – 4:35
  6. "Teenie's Blues" – 6:33





  1. ^ a b Palmer, Richard (1990). "The Nelson Touch". Jazz Journal International (London): 10. 
  2. ^ Nastos, Michael G. "The Blues and the Abstract Truth: review" AllMusic. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  3. ^ Rob Tannenbaum (August 4, 2009). "Tasty! Steely Dan Brings the Guitar Solos, Male Ponytails". Retrieved 5 January 2014. 

External links[edit]