Sunday, January 20, 2019

Eric Dolphy - Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance, 2019)

This is a major reissue/historical release consisting of remastered versions of the Iron Man and Conversations LPs originally released by Douglas Records, along with eighty five minutes of previously unreleased recordings from the period. As is their wont, Resonance Records went all out, adding a one hundred page booklet of photos, analysis and reminisces to accompany the package. The music itself is staggering in its brilliance, and any opportunity to add more music by Eric Dolphy, master composer and improviser, virtuoso on alto saxophone, flute and bass clarinet, trusted confidant of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and scores of others is a chance to be jumped at with both feet. Disc One contains the Conversations LP, with the Fats Waller composition "Jitterbug Waltz" leading off, an with the tumbling melody perfect for Dolphy's flute and some crunchy trumpet from a young Woody Shaw. "Love Me" is a beautiful solo saxophone performance, one that builds logically and where the vibrancy of Dolphy's playing style really pops out of the speakers. His simpatico relationship with bassist Richard Davis is demonstrated at depth on "Alone Together" and two previously unreleased versions of "Muses for Richard Davis." Hearing Dolphy improvise on bass clarinet along side Davis's bowed bass is particularly hair raising. Disc two is the Iron Man sessions, with a beautiful version of Duke Ellington's gospel standard "Come Sunday" from the Black, Brown and Beige suite where the music unfolds reverentially through the use of bowed bass and reeds which allows the melody and deep sense of feeling to come through naturally. "Ode to Charlie Parker" restates his bebop roots, and the advances had made barely eight years after Parker's death. His flute carries the virtuosity of bebop but moves in a different direction, using angles and ideas from birdsong that were visionary. The closing track, "A Personal Statement" is a wild card, recorded a year later in Ann Arbor with Bob James and a near operatic singer, creating a long and experimental track. The third disc is dedicated to previously unreleased recordings, alternate takes of the music heard on the previous two discs, but with the amount of improvisation at play, each version was unique. The swinging avant bop songs like "Mandrake," which seem to point the way toward further breakthroughs he would make the following year and the island flavored "Music Matador" which allow the larger group to come into play sit along side two more unaccompanied takes of "Love Me" and one more of the duet "Alone Together." There is a lot to digest here, but it is worth the effort, filling in some of the gaps between Dolphy's great 1960-61 Prestige recordings, and his 1964 triumph Out to Lunch. Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions -

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