Saturday, October 28, 2006

Willem Breuker et. al. - The Compositions of Eric Dolphy (BVhaast, 2006)

Eric Dolphy's joyous alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute were a protean force on the jazz scene during his brief life and left a lasting impact, especially in Europe where he played his last concerts. On this disc a group of Dutch musicians with one rogue American play tribute to Dolphy by examining his compositional legacy. While Dolphy was somewhat erroneously lumped in with the "new thing" he was really a multi-faceted writer and performer who left a small but challenging book of original compositions. Recorded live in 2000, the band is Willem Breuker on saxophones and nominal leader, Eric Vloeimans on trumpet, Alex Coke on tenor saxophone and flute, Frank Van Bommel on piano, Arjen Gorter on bass and John Engels on drums. According to the liner notes, several of these musicians have won awards in their native land. The music is at once familiar and mysterious as Dolphy left a lot of room in his writing for improvisation and was surrounded by great players like Booker Little, Richard Davis and Andrew Hill. "GW" and "245" are early compositions that came from Dolpy's first albums on New Jazz and here they are performed respectfully but not reverentially (always the hardest part of any tribute.) Breuker and Alex Coke have the most difficult tasks on this disc, having to navigate the sudden swoops of Eric Dolphy's alto and approximating the bird like wonder of his flute, and both succeed admirably here. Everyone gets to stretch out on "The Prophet" and trumpeter Eric Vloeimans wisely doesn't try to copy the epic soloing that Little achieved on this song during their epochal Five Spot recordings but instead slowly crafts a fine unique statement of his own. Pianist Van Brommel deserves kudos for his playing on the Thelonious Monk inspired "Hat and Beard" by grafting Andrew Hill and Monk with his own pianistic vision. This is a well played and heartfelt tribute to an all too often overlooked master. It also makes for a good way to investigate some of the fine jazz that is being made in Europe.

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