SAINT ERIC DOLPHY

February 13, 2019 – 4:30 am

THANK YOU FOR YOUR DONATIONS

As 2018 ended, we are happy to reveal that a donor has stepped forward with funds to help the site pay for web hosting charges to keep the site going. As of now, we have stopped all restarts of older shows to reduce the cost of running the site. We will be cautious about restarting some shows so as not to incur more costs.

Our costs will always be there. So readers who can donate towards the cost of the site, please open a Skrill account. Readers who wish to contribute to BigO will now have to use Skrill (click here). We are no longer able to use PayPal to receive donations. Register an account at Skrill. To make a payment, use this e-mail address as recipient’s e-mail address in Skrill: mail2[at]bigomagazine.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

+ + + + +

JUST TO LET YOU KNOW
To reduce spamming, the BigO website is going through Cloudflare. What it does is scan your browser to ensure the visitor is not a spam. Do not be alarmed as this usually takes only a few seconds. Email us if you still have difficulty accessing the BigO site; or playing or downloading the tracks. If you know a better way of reducing spam, do let us know.

+ + + + +

The Sixties saw a generation in motion. Its musicians behaved like missionaries. Spreading the good news. By Ron Jacobs.

“Eric Dolphy was a saint…”
- Charles Mingus

Eric Dolphy died in Berlin (on June 29, 1964) at the age of 36 from complications related to diabetes, his promise and talent enshrined in less than a dozen releases. A master of several wind instruments, Dolphy’s work with the ensembles he led remains some of the most innovative music of the mid-twentieth century.

Furthermore, his inimitable and prolific work as a sideman is arguably unequaled in the annals of jazz. It seems cliched to state this, but one wonders (like one wonders about too many musicians of the last half of the twentieth century) what music he would have created had he lived a few decades more.

On the 1st and 3rd of July in 1963, Eric Dolphy assembled 10 other musicians at Music Maker’s Studios in New York City. The music this ensemble recorded during those sessions resulted in two record albums: Conversations and Iron Man. In November 2018, as part of the Record Store Day promotion, Resonance Records released a new edition of these sessions that included mono versions of the two original albums along with 10 bonus tracks, mostly alternate takes on a few of the songs that appeared on the original releases.


Click on the graphic for the clip.

It is now in general release and includes a beautifully designed package featuring a 95-page booklet. The booklet includes the track listings, several interviews with fellow musicians and a couple of reviews. While not all the musicians gathered together by Dolphy appear on every track, it is fair to say that this ensemble is what an industry promotion department would call a supergroup. In addition to featuring those who had collaborated with Dolphy before - bassist Richard Davis and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson - these recordings also introduced trumpeter Woody Shaw to the larger world.

The CD includes the track included on the record along with an alternate take. Kenyatta, whose name Burning Spear would also be adopted by reggae artist Winston Rodney, had done some prison time for fighting against the British colonial powers in his home country of Kenya. He ultimately became its first ruler after independence. He led his nation down a capitalist path but was an early member of the movement of non-aligned nations (Non Aligned Movement).

When asked about what he thought Eric Dolphy was trying to achieve with his music, drummer Joe Chambers responded in an interview that appears in this CD’s liner notes: “Freedom…”

The other politically-tinged composition is the Bob James tune titled “A Personal Statement (Jim Crow).” This tone poem is both an expression of the sorrow and anger felt by so many Black Americans living in apartheid USA. Upon hearing this song, this reviewer is reminded of Wadada Leo Smith’s compositions addressing the Civil Rights and Black liberation movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

The tears of the children, the fears of the adults are present throughout, vocalized by Dolphy’s winds and James’s piano. The contrast of the fluted birdsong and the plucked bass inside this song binds the tune into one journey through a land still oozing poison from the wounds of white supremacists. As the song progresses, however, the fear instilled by white supremacy shrinks away, replaced by a more beatific vision of humanity.

When asked about what he thought Dolphy was trying to achieve with his music, drummer Joe Chambers responded in an interview that appears in this CD’s liner notes: “Freedom…” Chambers continues, explaining that playing in Dolphy’s group during this period was about “free interplay… (it was) A five-part counterpoint.”

In a manner similar to what Dylan’s mid-’60s recordings (specifically Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde) would do in rock music, Dolphy pushed the boundaries of jazz in these sessions, moving its creative boundaries outward into new spheres that redefine the genre itself.

Like John Coltrane, whom he played with more than once, Dolphy stretched the existing forms of jazz to their fullest, all the while maintaining a musical discipline that transcended tradition and the forms themselves. In doing so, the music of Dolphy and his fellow hard bop artists became a new form of its own; a form heard today in the work of certain artists, like the aforementioned Wadada Leo Smith.

An advertisement for the album Iron Man (one of the two original albums made from these Eric Dolphy sessions) that appeared in an industry magazine when the record was first released featured Eric Dolphy in a cartoon. The panels of the cartoon serve as a memorial to the man and his music, characterizing the man and his work as a superhero. This recording does nothing but enhance that characterization.

Click here for Eric Dolphy in Paris, June 11, 1964, barely three weeks before his death.

Note: Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. Email him here. The above article was posted at CounterPunch.

+ + + + +

  1. One Response to “SAINT ERIC DOLPHY”

  2. The thing that struck me reading the booklet, was that no on had anything but stories about what a great human being he was. I think he performed on Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz the day before or after these recordings. I’ll buy anything he plays on.

    By David on Feb 14, 2019

Post a Comment