Oliver Edward Nelson (June 4, 1932 – October 28, 1975) was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger, composer, and bandleader. He is perhaps best remembered for his groundbreaking 1961 Impulse! album The Blues and the Abstract Truth, widely regarded as one of the most significant recordings of the modern jazz era. The centerpiece of the album is the definitive version of Nelson’s composition, “Stolen Moments“. Other important recordings from the early 1960s are More Blues and the Abstract Truth and Sound Pieces, both also on Impulse!.
Oliver Nelson was born into a musical family. His brother was a saxophonist who played with Cootie Williams in the 1940s, and his sister sang and played piano. Nelson began learning to play the piano when he was six and started on the saxophone at eleven. Beginning in 1947 he played in “territory” bands in and around Saint Louis before joining the Louis Jordan band where he stayed from 1950 to 1951, playing alto saxophone and arranging.