Eric Dolphy: Out There
Analogue Productions CPRJ 8252 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 331/3 and also released on Hybrid SACD.
All mastered from the original analog master tapes by mastering maestro Kevin Gray.
In 1960, the free jazz pioneered by Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Horace Tapscott and a very few others was rejected by many musicians and most listeners. For the visionary saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist Eric Dolphy, it was simply new music fed by the mainstream, a logical extension of the jazz tradition. In Far Cry without leaving form behind, he incorporated the spirit of adventure and abandon with which free jazz at its best infused freshness into jazz. Recording with a pianoless quartet that used Ron Carter’s cello as the other melody instrument, Dolphy worked from chord patterns developed within structures that depart from ordinary 32-bar jazz and popular song forms. He used 30-bar, 35-bar and 18-bar structures, but he also observed standard practice with 12-bar blues, “Serene.” Dolphy’s speech-like improvisations and Carter’s bowed or plucked cello solos soar over the impeccable and responsive accompaniments of bassist George Duvivier and drummer Roy Haynes.
Review by Mark Werlin - June 15, 2018
At the end of 1959, Eric Dolphy settled in New York after years of intensive practice and rehearsal, and a two-year sideman stint with percussionist Chico Hamilton. Signed to Prestige, he began a busy recording schedule. For his second Prestige session "Out There", Dolphy conceived of a piano-less quartet with his friend Ron Carter on cello, and no additional horn. Reduction from the standard bebop quintet opened space for an intimate, chamber music style of performance, a framework for Dolphy and Carter to venture "out there". The rhythm section of George Duvivier and Roy Haynes were in the elite of professional musicians, technically equipped to play any style of jazz. Haynes would be Coltrane's choice to fill in for Elvin Jones during Jones' worst period of heroin use.
Although not named on the album's liner notes, Esmond Edwards is credited on AllMusic and Discogs with the 'audio production' of "Out There"—a strangely-worded designation. Dolphy's recordings for Prestige, as a leader and as a sideman with Oliver Nelson, Mal Waldron, and Ken McIntyre, were all produced by Edwards. Esmond Edwards was an accomplished photographer whose images appear on many classic Prestige and Blue Note covers. Compared to Blue Note, Prestige was a cut-rate operation; it's a marker of Edwards' resourcefulness that he could produce a date as accomplished as "Out There" on the kind of low budgets Prestige owner Bob Weinstock allotted.
From the tightly-arranged alto sax and cello unison lines on the title track it is clear that Dolphy and Carter are breathing the same rarefied air. Carter takes the first solo, deploying slurs, slides, bounced bow, and double-stops, a virtuoso display that boasts 'I can play anything you throw at me'. Dolphy constructs an unsettling, innovative melodic solo grounded in familiar rhythmic patterns learned from Charlie Parker's recordings. His articulation is almost preternaturally distinct—the reward of endless hours practicing in his rehearsal room. The long lines of notes, each carrying weight and emphasis, the wide interval leaps and false fingered quarter-tones, the sheer unpredictability of his ideas, generate a sound concept unlike Parker or his successors and imitators.
Dolphy's tribute to Charles Mingus, "The Baron", follows the same structure as "Out There", an opening head of angular lines played in unison, this time by the bass clarinet and cello. A cello solo by Carter ends with Dolphy's sudden entrance—as if he were compelled to interrupt Carter in mid-conversation. Dolphy explores the range of the instrument in a dazzling, modernistic solo. The pressure of recording an album in just a few hours of studio time may have driven his impatience to play as much as possible. There are anecdotes about his tendency to jump in unexpectedly when his fellow players hadn't quite finished.
The arrangement of Mingus' song "Eclipse" with Dolphy on his first instrument, the Bb clarinet, moves the set into chamber music territory. Dolphy interprets the long, sustained-notes theme without undue emphasis, using narrow vibrato, while Carter solos eloquently on the cello and Duvivier bows subtle counter-melodies. Dolphy's solo is a dance-like cascade of melodic invention, with leaps into the upper register and graceful descending arpeggios.
Kevin Gray's excellent transfer, which is noticeably warmer and more detailed than the Fantasy SACD Eric Dolphy: Out There, reveals how engineer Rudy Van Gelder experimented with instrument placement and reverb to enhance the unusual qualities of this ensemble. On most of the tunes, Ron Carter's cello is panned to the right channel with Roy Haynes' drum kit, but on some tracks Van Gelder moves him to the center for a closer blend with George Duvivier. RVG's compulsion to gild the lily, raising and lowering the level of reverb in the live mix, needlessly softens the bite of the bows on strings. By the time Dolphy recorded his masterpiece "Out to Lunch" at the Englewood Cliffs studio in February 1964, Van Gelder was exercising more restraint.
The first few years he lived in New York, Dolphy enthusiastically contributed to some of the most conceptually advanced projects in new jazz. He performed and recorded with Charles Mingus' Jazz Workshop at festivals in Europe and club dates in New York; recorded three studio albums for Prestige under his own leadership; participated in a Third Stream music project with composer Gunther Schuller; appeared alongside Ornette Coleman on the iconic album "Free Jazz"; and resumed a musical conversation with John Coltrane that would culminate in a controversial run at the Village Vanguard that provoked a backlash from narrow-minded critics at Down Beat and other music magazines.
By 1963, there were far fewer and much less remunerative opportunities for working musicians. The musical direction he was exploring was documented on "Iron Man" and "Conversations" recorded for independent producer Alan Douglas, and "Out to Lunch!" for Blue Note Records. (The 192/24 transfer of "Out to Lunch!" from the original master tape is available as a hi-res download, and is highly recommended). A tour of Europe in 1964 briefly reunited him with Charles Mingus but led his death at age 36 in a Berlin hospital, where doctors struggled unsuccesfully to diagnose and treat him for a diabetic coma.
His conception of the alto sax honored the contributions of Charlie Parker while taking wing in new harmonic directions. As a jazz bass clarinetist he was, and remains, without peer; a sound innovator and an inspiration for subsequent generations of musicians.
Eric Dolphy was quoted as saying: "When you hear music, after it's over, it's gone in the air. You can never capture it again."
But if you listen very closely, you can hear the echoes.
So long, Eric.
1. Out There
3. The Baron
5. 17 West
6. Sketch Of Melba
Eric Dolphy, alto sax, flute, bass clarinet and Bb clarinet; Ron Carter, cello; George Duvivier, bass; Roy Haynes, drums
Audio production by Esmond Edwards. Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, August 15, 1960
Copyright © 2018 Mark Werlin and HRAudio.net