HONORING OLIVER: This weekend, Washington University offers jazz fans the opportunity to explore the legacy of a great -- but often neglected -- local jazz musician, Oliver Nelson. Saturday at 4 p.m. at Tietjens Hall, 6445 Forsyth, Gerald Early will lead a symposium focusing on Nelson's music. Joining Early at the podium will be David Baker, a former professional jazz musician who now heads the jazz department at Indiana University; famed drummer Ed Shaughnessy; and Nelson's son, Oliver Nelson Jr. At 4 p.m. Sunday at the Edison Theatre, the Jazz Edge Orchestra will perform selections of Nelson's music -- joined by Nelson Jr., on flute, and Shaughnessy.

Born in St. Louis in 1932, Nelson was playing with local groups such as the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra and George Hudson's band while still in high school and playing saxophone and writing arrangements for Louis Jordan's band at the age of 19. After a stint in the military, Nelson returned to St. Louis, where he graduated from Washington University in 1957 with a degree in music. After earning his master's degree the next year at Lincoln University, Nelson headed to New York City, where he worked with the likes of Louis Bellson, Erskine Hawkins and Duke Ellington before forming his own group in 1960. Nelson's group included great musicians like sax and flute player Eric Dolphy, bassist Paul Chambers, pianist Bill Evans, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and drummer Roy Haynes, and produced classic recordings such as The Blues and the Abstract Truth. Nelson's versatility as a composer and arranger led him to Hollywood in 1967, where he became a premiere talent, writing scores for TV shows such as Ironside, The Six Million Dollar Man and It Takes a Thief. Unfortunately, Nelson's commercial success took him away from the realm of jazz, and the pressures and stress of scoring contributed to his early death in 1975 at age 43 of a heart attack. This weekend's symposium and concert at Washington University is a long-overdue tribute to one of St. Louis' most talented musicians. For more info, call 385-7210. (TP)

Contributors: Rachel Doughty, Terry Perkins, Rene Spencer Saller, Randall Roberts

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