JazzTimes - p.103
"Cunliffe walks a fine line. His new arrangements do not radically alter Nelson's music, but rather offer subtle shifts in harmonic and rhythmic perspective."
Personnel: Bill Cunliffe (piano); Bob Sheppard (saxophone, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Jeff Clayton (saxophone, alto saxophone); Brian Scanton (saxophone); Brian Scanlon (alto saxophone); Terell Stafford, Larry Lunetta (trumpet); Andy Martin (trombone); Tom Warrington (bass instrument); Mark Ferber (drums).
Audio Mixers: Pierre Paul; George Klabin; Jon D'Uva.
Liner Note Authors: Kirk Silsbee; Bill Cunliffe.
Arranger: Bill Cunliffe.
Bill Cunliffe was invited to do an updated arrangement of Oliver Nelson's landmark album Blues and the Abstract Truth, a tough challenge, given Nelson's superb charts and the numerous all-stars he had on the 1961 session (pianist Bill Evans, alto saxophonist/flautist Eric Dolphy, and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard in the front line). But the pianist tweaked each of the pieces just a bit, altered some of the instrumentation (a trombone replaces baritone sax, while soprano sax is added on some tracks), while also making subtle rhythmic changes at times. "Stolen Moments" has long since become a jazz standard and it is tough to measure up to Nelson's second version (he scored an earlier one for a big band led by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis), since Dolphy (on flute), Evans and Nelson laid down such superb solos. But Andy Martin's vocal-like trombone is a highlight, even if Cunliffe doesn't try to compete with Evans' work. Trumpeter Terell Stafford and Andy Martin burn in the playful "Hoe Down," while tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard wails in "Yearnin'." The closing two songs are originals by Cunliffe that are in the spirit of Nelson (who died at age 43 of a heart attack in 1975). Tribute albums are always difficult, as they aren't intended to replace the recordings they honor, but Bill Cunliffe has easily achieved his goal on this rewarding CD. ~ Ken Dryden