Oliver Nelson died in 1975 at 43 of a heart attack; he’d be a legend if he’d lived a little longer. Nowadays he’s mostly remembered for The Blues and the Abstract Truth from 1961, and Stolen Moments is the song on that record that’s always stuck to the back of my brain.
Nelson was a University-trained composer, who did well by jazz but was always writing music for one type of ensemble or another. The Blues and the Abstract Truth is a straight-ahead jazz album with an all-star band including Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Paul Chambers, and Roy Haynes. Boy, can they ever play.
Stolen Moments is obviously a jazz number, but equally the work of a composer, with sections that have thoughtful relationships to the sections before and after them. It’s full of melodic gems and rhythmic indirection and, with that band, the breaks are obviously fabulous. It’s thoughtful, unhurried, tasty music.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify. There’s no live video of Oliver Nelson performing this, and he wasn’t that much of a showman. But there are plenty of Stolen Moments out there. I’m going to pick a performance by Bill Cunliffe’s band, which doesn’t sound much like Nelson’s take, but it’s tasteful and intelligent and good.