Oliver Nelson Remembered
Sunday, June 13th, 2010
Here it is three weeks after an amazing tribute to trombone master JJ Johnson and VTY Jazz is coming back with another "Sunday Serenade", this time dedicated to saxophonist Oliver Nelson. The musicians picked for this "Sunday Serenade" had their work cut out for them. You must remember these are not working bands and to come together an hour and a half before a concert is to begin and put together all the music that was going to be preformed is no easy task. Oliver Nelson's music is quite easy to listen to, but to play it is a whole different story. Once again an excellent band was put together by VTY Jazz and they treated Oliver's music with great care and respect. Marcus Persiani piano, Paul Beaudry bass, and Steve Johns drums, were the perfect rhythm section. Then put Joe Ford alto saxophone, Mike DiRubbo alto and soprano saxophone and a special guest from Stockholm Sweden named Amanda Sedgewick on alto saxophone you now have all the pieces in place for an outstanding concert. Marcus Persiani and Mike DiRubbo had put together the music for this tribute and the tunes picked were simply amazing.

The opening tune was an Oliver Nelson original called "Six and Four" and as Mike said "it was taken off of a recording called" "Straight Ahead." Just a great tune that gave everyone a chance to solo. Steve's drum solo was so effortless and as smooth as could be. I could see why he has been an intricate part of Sonny Fortune's band for the past ten years. The next piece was another Oliver Nelson composition entitled "Latino." Joe took the first solo and he showed an amazing fluidity with each and every chorus. Mike was next up and his solo on soprano opened a lot of eyes at the Bassline. He showed a command of this instrument that was amazing. You could also see the effect Joe's solo had on him. Marcus's solo on this piece was his best of the day. I felt like he knew something about this "Latino" :). The next tune brought up the special guest of the afternoon Ms. Amanda Sedgewick and they swung on "The Meeting" another Oliver Nelson classic. It didn't take long before we all found out that Amanda was one swinging alto player. Her first solo was bright and full of imagination. After brief solos by everyone in the band you knew "The Meeting" was a success. The beautiful "Black, Brown and Beautiful" was next and it was played with amazing sensitivity and beauty. It's so hard to believe hearing this piece that this band had so little time to rehearse.

The last tune of the first set was another composition from the pen of Oliver Nelson called "Alto-itis". This tune was played by Mike and Amanda both on alto saxophones. Mikes first solo was played with so much fire and you could hear the Jackie McLean influence in his playing. Amanda was next up and she let everyone know she was up to the task. She was right on it and to watch the rhythm section smiling you knew they dug what she was laying down. Talking about the rhythm section they were as tight as could be. Steve Johns solo on Alto-itis was masterful and that might be an understatement. Gee, what a way to end the first set.

The second set featured all Oliver Nelson compositions as did the first set, "Straight Ahead," "Elegy Of A Duck," "Flute Salad" and the fabulous "Stolen Moments." "Stolen Moments" had some surprise guests sit in, singer Antoinette Montague and the owner of the Bassline Duke Jones who just happens to play trumpet. "Straight Ahead" which opened the second set was played at a rapid fire tempo and brought the music level up a couple of notches. It seemed like Mike and Joe had no problem whatsoever with going where ever they cared to go and a very capable rhythm section gave them all the support they could wish for. "Elegy of a Duck" had Mike back on soprano and the solos taken by Joe, Mike, Marcus and Steve were all on the money. Joe and Amanda played another gem from the Oliver Nelson book called "Flute Salad." This one had Mike lying out, but you could see he was enjoying all that was happening. No Oliver Nelson tribute would be complete without playing the Classic "Stolen Moments." Duke Jones sat in as well as Antoinette Montague. I must tell you that, "very truly yours himself put Antoinette on the spot, but to her credit she got it together." What a wonderful climax to a tribute for this musical giant "Oliver Nelson."

To think of all the great music that I just experienced at this tribute and knowing these amazing musicians only scratched the surface of what this master of American music has written is astonishing. You have to take into account he did this having left us at the early age of 43. I have often felt the term genius is at times over used, but with Oliver Nelson he is a true "geniuses." If you're wondering what is a "geniuses," your talking about the one and only "Mr. Oliver Edward Nelson."
- Arnie Perez
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