Oliver Edward Nelson (Saint Louis1932 – June 4, Los AngelesOctober 27, 1975 [1[2]) was an American composerarrangerconductor, bandleader and jazzsaxophonist.


[hide]*1 early life

Life Course[Edit]Edit

Nelson grew up in a musical family. His brother was also saxophonist and played in the 1940s along with Cootie Williams. Also its sister played the piano and was a singer. He got piano lessons at the age of six and when he was eleven he began to play the saxophone. From 1947 he was a saxophonist in Bands in the region of Saint Louis and from 1950 he became second alto saxophonist in the "Louis Jordan Big Band", for which arranging. He was subdued by the U.S. Navy and then studied at the Washington University in Saint Louis music theory and composition. After he graduated, he was a member in the "Erskine HawkinsOrchestra" and from 1959 for a short time at Louie Bellson. But he also brought itself as Band leader together with musicians such as Kenny DorhamJohnny Hammond SmithEric DolphyRoy HaynesKing Curtisand Jimmy Forrest LP records on the market and the breakthrough came with the album "The Blues and the Abstract Truth" and it contained thereon Stolen Moments.

In 1967 he moved to Los Angeles and now especially composed for television and film. From 1966 he entered separately with its own so-called All Star Big Band, for example, in 1970 during the jazz festival in Berlin, and in 1971 in Montreux in 1975 in New York City and in Los Angeles. He arranged himself for many artists and artists from the jazz and pop music. His most famous film music works are Death of a Gunfighter,Ironside (TV series), Night GalleryColumbothe six million dollar ManThe Bionic Woman and Longstreet.

Compositions (Excerpt)[Edit]Edit

Works for Orchestra[Edit]Edit

  • 1956 Divertimento, for Chamber Orchestra
  • 1961 Dirge, for Chamber Orchestra
  • 1966 Patterns, for Orchestra
  • 1967 The Kennedy Dream: A Musical Tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • 1971 Impressions of Berlin, suite for Orchestra
  • 1972 Concert Piece, for alto saxophone solo and Orchestra

Works for wind Orchestra[Edit]Edit

Work for big band/jazz ensemble[Edit]Edit

  • Booze Blues Baby 1959
  • 1960 Alto-itis
  • 1960 Early Morning
  • 1960 Stolen Moments
  • 1961 Afro-American Sketches
  • 1962 Back Woods
  • 1962 Ballad For Benny
  • 1963 Sound Piece For Jazz Orchestra
  • 1964 Blues And The Abstract Truth
  • 1966 Cat In A Tree
  • 1966 Elegy For A Duck
  • 1966 Flute Salad
  • 1966 Fugue Tune
  • 1966 Happenings, jazz-Waltz
  • 1967 Jazzhattan Suite
    1. A Typical Day In New York
    2. The East Side--The West Side
    3. 125th Street and 7th Avenue
    4. Penthouse Dawn
    5. One For Duke
  • 1969 African Sunset
  • 1970 A Black Suitefor Narrator, String Quartet and jazz orchestra
    1. The Mayor and the People Press Conference
    2. Take This Hammer
    3. Precious Lord
    4. Sit Down
    5. Mother To Son (Langston Hughes)
    6. I Too Sing America (Langston Hughes)
    7. I Dream A World (Langston Hughes)
    8. Paint It Black (Gil Scott Heron)
  • 1973 Baja Bossa
  • 1974 In A Japanese Garden

Vocal music[Edit]Edit

Chamber Music[Edit]Edit

  • 1957 Sonate, for alto saxophone and piano
  • wind quintet 1960
  • 1968 Septet (The Clarinet Family)

Film Music[Edit]Edit


  • Aaron Horne, David n. Baker (Fwd.): African American composers, in: Brass music of black composers: a bibliography Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996.
  • Aaron Horne, Dominique-Rene de Lerma (Fwd.): String music of black composers-A bibliography, New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.
  • Wolfgang Suppan, Armin SuppanDas Neue Lexikon des Blasmusikwesens, 4. Auflage, Freiburg-Tiengen, Blasmusikverlag Schulz GmbH, 1994, ISBN 3-923058-07-1
  • Hildred Roach: Black American music: past and present, Second edition, Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 1992, 3668 p.
  • Paul e. Bierley, William h. Rehrig: The heritage encyclopedia of band music: composers and their music, Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1991, ISBN 0-918048-08-7
  • E. Bacsik: A Tribute to Oliver Nelson, in: Educator, vol. 9, no. 3, 1977. pp. 42-43
  • Les Faces the Nelson: Discographie Selective du Compositeur et Saxophonist Oliver Nelson, in: Jazz Magazine, no. 242, March 1976. p. 14
  • W.L. Fowler: Oliver Nelson: New Hope for the Abstract Truth, in: downbeat, vol. 42, April 24, 1975. p. 10


  1. Up Rough Guide to Jazz (1999) year of died. Sometimes also the 28 October mentions, for example in Jazzlexikon 2002 Kunzler
  2. Up Article in the newspaper "New York Times" on 30 October 1975 on the death of Oliver Nelson on 27 October 1975

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