There were many saxophonists on the scene in 1960 who would influence jazz for the next forty years. While saxophonist/composer/arranger Oliver Nelson might not be the best known of the musicians of that era, he blew alongside some of the greats. He is probably best known for his compositions and arrangements ("Stolen Moments," "Miss Fine" and "Hobo Flats" come to mind). Nelson was born in St. Louis, Missouri and played with big bands like the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra in the late 1940s. By the time this album was recorded in 1960, he was leading smaller groups, although he continued to work in large band settings as well.
The title track of this reissue, the longest at eleven minutes, allows the musicians a chance to stretch out. "Screamin' the Blues" grabs you from the very first bar and doesn't let go. Nelson proves he can play the blues with some serious feeling; Dolphy's bass clarinet offers a different, angular side. Richard Williams plays his usual tack-sharp trumpet here and throughout the album.
"March On, March On," the only non-Nelson composition, offers an interesting dichotomy between Nelson and Dolphy's alto saxophone playing. Stylistically, Nelson sounds more mainstream, in a hard bop mode, while Dolphy extends the bop sound into a freer realm. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), it seems to work. "The Meetin'" is reminiscent of Bobby Timmons' "Dis Here," with the churchy call and response that you would expect from such a number. The unison lines are reminiscent of what would later come out on Nelson's Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961). "Alto-Itis" is a fairly boppish piece where Dolphy solos first, then Nelson follows.
All of the musicians seem to work well on Screamin' the Blues. I wish there was a little more room for them to blow, since the album tops out at just short of forty minutes.
Screamin' the Blues; March On, March On; The Drive; The Meetin'; Three Seconds; Alto-Itis.
Oliver Nelson: alto and tenor saxophones; Eric Dolphy: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute;
Richard Williams: trumpet; Richard Wyands: piano; George Duvivier: bass; Roy Haynes: drums.
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