By the time Oliver Nelson and his big band had recorded Fantabulous in March of 1964 for Argo, the great composer, saxophonist, conductor, and arranger was a man about town in New York. He had released some truly classic dates of his own as a leader in smaller group forms – Blues and the Abstract Truth and Full Nelson among them – and had done arrangement work for everyone from Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Hodges, Nancy Wilson, Frank Wess, King Curtis, Etta Jones, Jimmy Smith, Jack Teagarden, Betty Carter, Billy Taylor, and Gene Ammons, to name more than a few. For Fantabulous, he took his working big band to Chicago for a gig sponsored by Daddy-O-Daylie, a famous local disc jockey.
One of the giants of the alto saxophone, Johnny Hodges was perhaps the most important soloist and sideman in Duke Ellington's orchestra from 1928 up to Hodges' death in 1970. The self-taught player made many solo forays during his long career - one of his '50s outfits included a young John Coltrane - but history remembers Hodges for his virtuosic sidemanship, particularly his sensitive rendering of ballads.