The Blues and the Abstract Truth

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The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Original LP cover/1995 US CD issue
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 1961 (1961-08)[1]
RecordedFebruary 23, 1961
StudioVan Gelder Studio
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
ProducerCreed Taylor
Oliver Nelson chronology
Soul Battle
The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Straight Ahead
Alternate cover
Second LP cover/1990 US CD issue
Second LP cover/1990 US CD issue
Audio sample
"Teenie's Blues" (stereo mix)
Professional ratings
Review scores
(Original Lp release)
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[6]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings[7]

The Blues and the Abstract Truth is an album by American composer and jazz saxophonist Oliver Nelson recorded in February 1961 for the Impulse! label. 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 remains a key feature in the subtle voicings of Nelson's arrangements.[8] The album is often noted for its unique ensemble arrangements[9][10] and is frequently identified as a progenitor of Nelson's move towards arranging later in his career.[11]


Among the pieces on the album, "Stolen Moments" is the best known and has become a jazz standard: a 16-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", inspired by the fourth section of Aaron Copland's Rodeo, 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).[8]

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.


Writing in the December 21, 1961, issue of DownBeat magazine jazz critic Don DeMicheal commented:

Nelson's playing is like his writing: thoughtful, unhackneyed, and well constructed. Hubbard steals the solo honors with some of his best playing on record. Dolphy gets off some good solos too, his most interesting one on "Yearnin'".[3]

The Jazz Journal International cited the album as "one of the essential post-bop recordings."[2]

It was voted number 333 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[12]

Other versions/influences[edit]

The composition "Stolen Moments" has been recorded and performed by numerous musicians including Phil Woods, J. J. Johnson, Frank Zappa, Ahmad Jamal, Booker Ervin, the United Future Organization and the Turtle Island Quartet. The first eight bars of Nelson's solo on the bridge of "Hoe-Down" were quoted by Ernie Watts and Lee Ritenour in the song "Bullet Train" from their 1979 album Friendship.[13] "Teenie's Blues" was used as a 2009 show-opener by Steely Dan.[14]

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

Jews and the Abstract Truth was the debut album by experimental klezmer band Hasidic New Wave (whose members included improvisers trumpeter Frank London and saxophonist Greg Wall), released on Knitting Factory in 1996.[15]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Oliver Nelson except Hoe-Down by Aaron Copland.

Side one
No.TitleOrder of solosLength
1."Stolen Moments"Hubbard, Dolphy, Nelson, Evans8:47
2."Hoe-Down"Hubbard, Dolphy, Nelson, Haynes4:43
3."Cascades"Hubbard, Evans5:32
Side two
No.TitleOrder of solosLength
1."Yearnin'"Dolphy, Hubbard, Evans6:24
2."Butch and Butch"Nelson, Hubbard, Dolphy, Evans4:35
3."Teenie's Blues"Dolphy, Nelson, Evans, Chambers6:33




Chart performance for The Blues and the Abstract Truth
Chart (2021) Peak
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[16] 52
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[17] 74


  1. ^ Khan, Ashley (2007). The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 44. ISBN 9780393330717.
  2. ^ a b Palmer, Richard (1990). "The Nelson Touch". Jazz Journal International. London: 10.
  3. ^ a b DownBeat: December 21, 1961, Vol. 28, No. 26.
  4. ^ Nastos, Michael G. "The Blues and the Abstract Truth: review" AllMusic. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  5. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. pp. 151. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  7. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 1070. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  8. ^ a b Oliver E. Nelson: Liner notes from Impulse! A-5, March 1961.
  9. ^ "Hard Bop Heaven: Oliver Nelson - "The Blues And The Abstract Truth". The Jazz Record. 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  10. ^ Shadwick, Keith (2007). "Oliver Nelson - The Blues & The Abstract Truth". Jazzwise Magazine. Mark Allen Group. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  11. ^ The Music Aficionado (2018). "The Blues and the Abstract Truth, by Oliver Nelson". The Music Aficionado: Quality articles about the golden age of music. The Music Aficionado Blog. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  12. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 134. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  13. ^ Electra Records album number 6E-241.
  14. ^ Rob Tannenbaum (August 4, 2009). "Tasty! Steely Dan Brings the Guitar Solos, Male Ponytails". Retrieved January 5, 2014.
  15. ^ "Hasidic New Wave, Jews and the Abstract Truth". Retrieved 16 April 2022. Jews and the Abstract Truth may owe little to Oliver Nelson, but it is a fine recording and an excellent introduction to the genre.
  16. ^ " – Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  17. ^ " – Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth". Hung Medien. Retrieved July 12, 2021.

External links[edit]