Saturday, January 17, 2009

Eric Dolphy - Live at the Five Spot, Vol. 1 (Prestige, 1961, 2008)

One of my favorite jazz albums has gotten the deluxe RVG reissue treatment, so it's a good time to take another look at it. The most interesting jazz for me to listen to is the music that embraces both structure and freedom, and this album is a perfect example of that. This is part of the three album series that highlights a wonderful run at the small club in New York City that hosted many of jazz's greatest stars. It would be difficult to put together a better band of inside/outside musicians than those playing here: Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Booker Little on trumpet, Jaki Byard on piano, Richard Davis on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums. The music here is wide open, filled with opportunities for wonderful solos from all of the band members and wonderful ensemble playing. As great as the rhythm section is (one of the best ever) the spotlight falls on the two men in the front line, both who would pass away much too young, but on these recordings sound as vibrant and colorful as is possible in this music. Dolphy's saxophone manages to sound both utterly unique and a completely logical extension of the music of Charlie Parker. His jumping, swooping solos are simply a joy to behold. Same for Little, whose warm supple tone and pyrotechnic ability recalls both Clifford Brown and Dizzy Gillespie, but remains completely his own. He was 23 years old and not fated to live a year longer. The music here includes the extraordinary lengthy compositions "Bee Vamp" and "Fire Waltz" which remain state of the art in modern jazz almost fifty years later. This is music that never fails to make me smile and shake my head in wonder at the talent of the fine men gathered here and the extraordinary music that they made.
Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot, Vol. 1 - amazon.com

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