Although Oliver Nelson wasn't with us very longhe died in October 1975, age forty-threethe renowned composer / arranger / saxophonist bequeathed an impressive musical legacy and touched many lives along the way. Among his many admirers is trumpeter John Vanore who first met Nelson in 1966 at an Indiana University summer camp, a meeting, Vanore writes, that "changed and shaped my career." To help repay the debt, Vanore has recorded Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson, on which he has redeemed and orchestrated half a dozen of Nelson's memorable compositions (and revamped three marvelous arrangements) for his superb fourteen-member big band.
Vanore's purpose, he says, was not to emulate Nelson's technique but to reanimate his intrepid spirit to challenge and inspire the ensemble. To do so, Vanore assembled a somewhat anomalous group whose roster includes a four-member trumpet section but only two woodwinds, alto / soprano Steve Wilson and tenor / bass clarinetist Bob Malach (whose name is inexplicably misspelled three times as "Mallach"). They are augmented by two trombones, two French horns and a four-piece rhythm section with Beth Gottlieb adding percussion on the seductive "El Gato" (written for saxophonist Gato Barbieri).
Malach is showcased on "A Taste of Honey," Wilson (in swashbuckling form) on the buoyant finale, "Reuben's Rondo" (Vanore saves the very best for last). Trumpeter Dave Ballou is out front on Vanore's slow-but-sure arrangement of "St. Louis Blues," trombonist Ryan Keberle on a chorale-like treatment of the venerable folk anthem "Greensleeves." Vanore solos once, with bassist Mike Richmond and pianist Jim Ridl, on Nelson's best-known theme, "Stolen Moments," Malach, Wilson and guitarist Greg Kettinger on "El Gato," Ballou and drummer Danny Gottlieb on another Nelson evergreen, "Blues and the Abstract Truth." Wilson's soprano sax brightens the bluesy "I Hope in Time a Change Will Come."
In truth, the blues were never far from Nelson's orbit, nor are they from Vanore's. For fans of Oliver Nelson (and they are legion), a heartwarming and well-shaped revival of some of his enduring music.
Self Help Is Needed; A Taste of Honey; Stolen Moments; El Gato; St. Louis Blues; Blues & the Abstract Truth; Greensleeves; I Hope in Time a Change Will Come; Reuben’s Rondo.
John Vanore: conductor, arranger, trumpet (3); Tony Kadleck: trumpet, flugelhorn; Augie Haas: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Ballou: trumpet, flugelhorn; Steve Wilson: alto, soprano sax, flute; Bob Malach: tenor sax, bass clarinet; Ryan Keberle: trombone; David Taylor: bass trombone; George Barnett: French horn; Adam Unsworth: French horn; Jim Ridl: piano; Greg Kettinger: guitar; Mike Richmond: bass; Danny Gottlieb: drums; Beth Gottlieb: percussion (4).
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