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Prestige Profiles: Eric Dolphy by Eric Dolphy

Prestige Profiles: Eric Dolphy was previously released by Fantasy as The Best of Eric Dolphy in a 2004 collection. My 2004 review appears here unchanged. However the new release also contains a bonus disc. More about all that later.

By the early sixties, when these tracks were recorded, Eric Dolphy had paid considerable dues. He gigged for a decade in LA, including a stint with Chico Hamilton. and then moved to New York to play with Mingus and freelance.

Dolphy was accomplished and original on alto flute and bass clarinet. He possessed a formidable work ethic and eclectic musical tastes. His interests included Indian music and academic avant garde. Dolphy descended from Bird but headed out there beyond Bird with a group of youthful kindred spirits. In the three sessions from 1960, except for "Green Dolphin Street," all the tunes are Dolphy originals. The first introduces a very young Freddie Hubbard, the hard-driving drummer Roy Haynes and the uncompromising Jaki Byard on piano. Inspired by Dolphy's alto, Byard delivers a wonderfully dissonant solo on "G.W." The next date is pianoless. Ron Carter, just out of Eastman and playing cello, is as adventurous as Dolphy on the boppish "Out There," while "Serene" allows Dolphy and his bass clarinet to take the blues in unexpected directions. By the end of the year the successful but short association of Dolphy and Booker Little had begun. Their fluent alto/trumpet exchanges heat up "Miss Ann" and inspire repeated listening.

In mid-1961, Dolphy and Little appeared at the Five Spot with a rhythm section of Mal Waldron, Richard Davis and Ed Blackwell. These extended performances are stand-outs. Waldron's "Status Seeking" provides intense excitement, propelled by Blackwell's drums. On "Booker's Waltz," Dolphy takes his bass clarinet to the edge in his collaboration with Little' s fiery trumpet. Little, one of those trumpet comets of that era, died from uremia a few months after this session. He was 23. Another gem is Dolphy's appearance in Copenhagen later that year with a local rhythm section. He displays his mastery of the flute, opening "Glad to be Unhappy" with a beautiful melodic reading, building to an uninhibited performance far beyond the music of the sixties. It belongs to today.

Dolphy was special. He died at 36 of insulin shock, far too young with so much still to accomplish.

The new Prestige Profiles series showcases the music of Miles Davis, Red Garland, Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, and Lightnin' Hopkins. It's the first release by the Concord Music Group of the material acquired when Concord purchased Fantasy, Inc. and all the treasures in its vaults. The new management felt that the 2004 Best of series had "slipped through the cracks" during the negotiation period; hence the relaunch of the Prestige portion of that collection.

Each bonus disc is planned to be musically compatible with the featured artist CD and to draw further attention to the historical Prestige catalog. Bonus disc volume 5 is a good fit for the Dolphy reissue. While he only appears on Ron Carter's "Rally" (with Carter and Mal Waldron) his spirit and his times live on in the adventurous contributions of his contemporaries. Another multi-instrumentalist, Yusef Lateef, explores Eastern sounds on oboe in "Blues for the Orient." There's passionate hard bop, "A Lunar Tune," with Booker Ervin and Jaki Byard, and the solemn "Tragedy" which features Don Ellis on trumpet and piano. In his all-too-short career Ellis played with Dolphy in the George Russell sextet. Steve Lacy and Don Cherry explore Monk's "Evidence." "Bakai" is representative of early Coltrane while the irrepressible Sonny Rollins runs wild on "Blue 7," described by Gunther Schuller as the beginning of thematic improvisation.

As with most samplers, very little information is provided except the names of the featured players and the original record. However it should whet your appetite for more music from a very creative period in jazz history.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Eric Dolphy
  • CD Title: Prestige Profiles: Eric Dolphy
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Prestige
  • Rating: Five Stars
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