Eric Dolphy: Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot
Analogue Productions CPRJ 8260 SA
Part of the ultimate audiophile Prestige stereo reissues from Analogue Productions — 25 of the most collectible, rarest, most audiophile-sounding Rudy Van Gelder recordings ever made. All cut at 33 1/3 and also released on Hybrid SACD
All mastered from the original analog master tapes by mastering maestro Kevin Gray
One night during a one-time, two-week engagement at the Five Spot produced enough music of lasting merit for three albums. When Rudy Van Gelder took his portable equipment down to the fabled Cooper Square jazz club on July 16, 1961, he captured the interaction of an extraordinary quintet.
Eric Dolphy, Booker Little, Mal Waldron, Richard Davis and Ed Blackwell had formed a cooperative group and, if LIttle had not died in October 1961, there is no doubt that it would have been a potent force in the music of the 1960s and beyond. Dolphy himself died in June 1964, after establishing himself as one of the important contemporary reedmen. Here his alto saxophone and bass clarinet and Little’s trumpet explore three originals: "The Prophet" by Dolphy, "Bee Vamp" by Little, and "Fire Waltz" by Waldron. It’s time caught in a bottle — music for the ages.
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Review by Mark Werlin - Yesterday 09:01 pm
Eric Dolphy's earliest self-led recordings are prominently represented in Analogue Productions' Prestige Stereo series: Outward Bound, Out There, and Far Cry, recorded in April, August and December 1960, respectively, and Live at the Five Spot Vol. 1, recorded July 16, 1961.
Live performances allowed Dolphy greater freedom to explore the landscape of his personal musical terrain. On the Mal Waldron composition "Fire Waltz" Dolphy's feet are firmly planted in the soil of jazz tradition, but his alto saxophone soars out of the field of bebop clichés. His solo plunges toward harmonic chaos, punctuated by out-of-chord high notes and glossolalia-like figures. Booker Little, whose hard bop lines rarely stray outside the changes, and composer Waldron, who builds the emotional center of his solo on an interpolation of Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy", sound conservative by comparison.
Little's tune "Bee Vamp" features Dolphy on bass clarinet. By the middle of his solo, constrained by Mal Waldron's sympathetic but conventional comping, Dolphy alternates between rapid-fire atonal outbursts and articulate phrases that run closer to the chord changes. The effect is strangely uncomfortable; though the ensemble playing is tight and compelling, the players' conceptions are too diverse for the performances to cohere. Dolphy doesn't need the chain and anchor of received musical wisdom.
The album's entire Side Two was taken up with a 20-minute performance of a Dolphy original entitled "The Prophet", a tribute to a painter friend whose artwork appears on the covers of "Outward Bound" and "Out There". Back on alto, Dolphy unleashes a fusillade of energetic, inventive phrases, rising to ecstatic fervor. As a child, Eric, like his friend and sometime bandleader Charles Mingus, attended church services that inspired parishioners to spontaneously 'speak in tongues'. As an adult, he was the assistant director of the junior choir at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and a member of its senior choir. He played piano and organ, and had he not been so in thrall to the music of Ellington and Charlie Parker, Eric Dolphy might have committed his life to sacred rather than art music. (from Horricks, Raymond, The Importance of Being Eric Dolphy, Tunbridge Wells: D J Costello (Publishers), Ltd., 1989)
Mastering engineer Kevin Gray does wonders with this venerable tape. Distortion is generally low and the clarity of the transfer brings the performances into sharp focus. Rudy Van Gelder had the unenviable task of balancing Eric Dolphy, who Mingus once described as possessing the loudest projection of any saxophonist since Coleman Hawkins, against Mal Waldron's subtle, restrained playing on the Five Spot's out-of-tune piano, Richard Davis' bass, which had a lean timbre with relatively little deep resonance, Booker Little's trumpet and Ed Blackwell's close-miked drums. An enthusiastically appreciative audience adds immediacy to the recording.
In the studio, Eric Dolphy collaborated successfully with Mal Waldron ("The Quest") and Booker Little (Dolphy's "Far Cry" and Little's "Out Front") . On the evidence of these live performances, Dolphy's restless and untrammeled imagination set up an unresolvable tension with those same colleagues, and diluted the impact of his innovative voice.
In just a matter of months, however, he would walk onstage at the Village Vanguard in the company of John Coltrane, and change the direction of jazz.
1. Fire Waltz
2. Bee Vamp
3. The Prophet
Eric Dolphy, alto sax, bass clarinet, flute; Booker Little, trumpet; Mal Waldron, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Ed Blackwell, drums
Production supervision by Esmond Edwards. Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at the Five Spot Café, NYC, July 16, 1961.
Mastered for SACD by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio
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