Everything old is new again. Except of course for the timeless music of Blue Note Records which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. The recordings Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff produced starting in 1939 have been collector's items since day one. While much of the label's music has been re-released in digital format, CDs and in iTunes, current chief Don Was decided to celebrate the 75th by compiling a list of 100 Blue Note Records to be released as remastered vinyl LPs. While half the fun of this list is arguing which other titles should have been included on the ...read more
Recorded just four months before his tragic demise, Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch (Blue Note, 1964) represents a pinnacle moment in avant-garde jazz of the 1960s. Together with Andrew Hill's Point of Departure on the same label and from the same year, Out To Lunch is among the most challenging albums in the Blue Note catalog--one to approach with a very open mind. It is also the only full studio record that Dolphy completed for the label, and the only one released during his lifetime. Similar to Hill's masterpiece, Out To Lunch focuses on Dolphy's outré compositions every ...read more
Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch! Blue Note / Music Matters 2009 (1964)
Few jazz fans still need an introduction to reed player Eric Dolphy's 1964 masterpiece, Out to Lunch!. It's an album people tend to come to fairly early on in their love affair with the music (assuming, that is, the affair started after the early 1960s), and serves as a meeting ground for a wide scope of fans, be they stalwarts of bop, avant-garde, big band, what have you. It's a modern, yet unthreatening piece of sublime music--a transcendent five-part suite in which ...read more
Note: The title refers to a composition by Prince Lasha, recorded on his 1966 UK CBS album Insight.
The history of jazz is a recorded history, one that exists on commercially-issued albums (many of which, thankfully, are in print or have been reissued) as well as a vast amount of concert recordings passed around among the cognoscenti and the intrepid researchers/musicians. For every historian who bemoans the lack of a Buddy Bolden cylinder, there are countless acetates, reel tapes, LPs, 78s and CDs available of sessions like Coltrane's Village Vanguard recordings, Charlie Parker's air-checks, Ellington's suites or ...read more
Confrontational, sprawling and historic, this resurrected March 1964 performance by one of his favorite bands--Johnny Coles (trumpet) and Clifford Jordan (saxophone) with favorite sons Dannie Richmond (drums), Jaki Byard (piano) and Eric Dolphy (reeds, flutes)--presents the muse of bassist Charles Mingus in all its terrible glory.
Split here between two CDs, this performance begins with two more or less solo pieces. Byard renders an amazing unaccompanied performance on ATFW," his combination tribute to Art Tatum and Fats Waller," blistering runs into complete stops, an elegant waltz time passage and then boogie-woogie. Mingus next commands Sophisticated Lady" in mostly ...read more
Following upon the first-time release of Mingus At UCLA 1965 (Universal 2007), which afforded penetrating if uneven glimpses into bassist Charles Mingus' creative process, this two-disc release offers more satisfying music and a fuller picture of an earlier and smaller but more distinguished Mingus ensemble--the fabled 1964 touring unit that would be recorded later that same year in Europe. Though Eric Dolphy understandably will always be a magnet, each of the soloists is heard to maximum advantage on this earlier American concert.
As is the case with the later date, pianist Jacki Byard opens the concert with a ...read more
The hype factor was cranked up considerably in 2005 for the unearthed recording of two jazz legends: John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk's At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note). Things have cooled down a tad since that momentous release but just as exciting and equally important is Cornell 1964 featuring the Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy. Mingus, the powerful enigmatic bassist, band-leader and composer, was as controversial as he was dynamic. Dolphy, an absolutely brilliant musician (alto sax, bass clarinet, and flute), whose short lived musical career (he died a few months after this concert in 1964) still ...read more
Like its historic 2005 discovery of the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, Blue Note Records has unearthed another masterpiece from the vaults with Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy: Cornell 1964. The double-disc collection is a monumental portrayal of an all-star group at the height of its powers, led by the bassist/composer who is widely regarded as one of the most complex, idiosyncratic and influential figures in 20th century American music. Although this band is represented on other recordings, Cornell 1964 captures a singular performance unequaled in Mingus' lengthy discography.
In A.B. Spellman's 1966 ...read more
Screamin' the Blues is an apt description of the soloists' approach on this 1960 session, here reissued as an RVG remaster, the first of three matching leader Oliver Nelson with avant-gardist Eric Dolphy. Although not as well-known as Nelson's masterpiece, Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961), the date is characterized, above all, by generosity" on the part of all three principals, including the underrated trumpeter Richard Williams.
Nelson's tenor solo on the title tune is the equivalent of an operatic tenor aria--full-throated, dramatic, played to the back row. It alone is testimony to the remarkable player he was before putting ...read more
Unlike Ornette Coleman--who wanted to blow orthodox jazz form out of the water--John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy initially worked to change the system from within, making music that fit the jazz standards of the time while injecting their own unique spin. This is why Outward Bound, Dolphy's first recording as a leader, is a not-so-distant relative of Coltrane's My Favorite Things (Atlantic, 1960).
On balance, both discs have a conventional base. While Coltrane stuck to the Great American Songbook, Dolphy penned over half the tunes on Outward Bound; even so, those originals mesh perfectly with classics like On ...read more
Eric Dolphy Last DateInterakt 2005 Though jazz has its fair share of premature deaths, few were as tragic as that of Eric Dolphy, both because it was avoidable and that it cut off a monumental player in his prime. The DVD issue of Last Date, a loving documentary from 1991, is an opportunity to celebrate Dolphy's significant, if sadly too short, legacy. Centered around his last month alive and the titular record done in Holland with Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink, the documentary traces his LA roots up ...read more
One of my pet theories is that one of the kickstarts for creative indigenous jazz in Europe was the tours undertaken there by Eric Dolphy as a leader (late summer 1961, summer 1964) and with John Coltrane (winter 1961) and Charles Mingus (summer 1964). The passage through the region of such an iconoclastic figure as Dolphy, particularly at these two hypercreative moments for him, must have had some effect on the local musicians who heard or, in some cases, played with him. Those tours were documented and are back in the forefront with a two-disc reissue of a Swedish concert ...read more
In many ways, the fence-line between avant-garde and mainstream jazz was towed by Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, two reedmen whose influence crossed as many boundaries as Coltrane and who might be said to be among the true leaders of the front-line soldiers, paving the way for aspects of a sonic revolution that, ubiquitous as it is, might be taken for granted.
Dolphy's playing was extraordinarily advanced harmonically, charting hitherto little-known territory in both upper and lower registers of the alto saxophone and bass clarinet, two of his principal instruments (he also played flute and clarinet). Yet as dissonant and ...read more
This article concludes my series on The Best Live Jazz Recordings that has appeared episodically over the past year. The present installment addresses the best of the rest," those recordings voted on by the All About Jazz writership but falling just below the cut for inclusion in the original top ten list. This a baker's dozen of recorded Live Jazz that certainly demands to be heard.
Eric Dolphy: Live At The Five Spot Volumes 1 (Prestige/OJC 133, 1984) and 2 (Prestige/OJC 247, 1992)
These recordings along with the Eric Dolphy and Booker Little Memorial Album--Live at the Five Spot (Prestige/OJC ...read more
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