Personnel: Oliver Nelson (alto & tenor saxophones, clarinet); Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute); Richard Wyands (piano); George Duvivier (bass); Roy Haynes (drums).
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on March 1, 1961. Originally released on New Jazz (8255). Includes original liner notes by Joe Goldberg.
Oliver Nelson's fame as an arranger often overshadows his work as a leader, which is a shame considering the quality of his albums. A classic hard-bop date from 1961, STRAIGHT AHEAD displays the best of Nelson's skills--his writing (he composed five of the six numbers here), his fine command of the sax (his bright, open tone and clean, lyrical approach), and his excellent taste in personnel.
The latter is of particular note here. In addition to Roy Haynes (drums), George Duvivier (bass), and Richard Wyands (piano), the enormously talented Eric Dolphy is also on board, posing a triple threat on alto saxophone, bass clarinet, and flute. Nelson bravely goes toe to toe with Dolphy, and while Nelson's playing is smart and accomplished, he is buried beneath the avalanche of Dolphy's invention (the multi-instrumentalist's knotty, springy lines, always full of surprise and humor, are nearly impossible to top). Everyone gets to stretch out on Milt Jackson's "Ralph's New Blues," Nelson's lilting "Images," and the frantic title cut, among others, making STRAIGHT AHEAD a magnificent showcase for all of these remarkably talented musicians.