Friday, January 26, 2018

Eric Dolphy - 1968 - Iron Man

Eric Dolphy 
Iron Man

01. Iron Man
02. Mandrake
03. Come Sunday
04. Burning Spear
05. Ode To C.P.

Alto Saxophone – Huey Simmons
Bass – Eddie Kahn, Richard Davis
Drums – J.C. Moses
Flute – Prince Lasha
Soprano Saxophone – Clifford Jordan
Trumpet – Woody Shaw, Jr.
Vibraphone – Robert Hutcherson

From the liner notes: "This record was produced during the early part of 1964, when Eric Dolphy and producer Alan Douglas decided to experiment with Eric's original compositions. 
Two approaches were agreed upon. One was of clear simplicity; Eric on reed instruments and Richard Davis on bass. The other was more involved - a ten piece orchestra of young men who understood and admired Eric's work. 
The recording sessions took place late at night in a very relaxed studio for five successive nights. In this environment the playing of Eric Dolphy, Richard Davis and the other musicians was unbelievably inspired. So much was created, individual compositions went from 'almost commercial' to 'very far out.' 
Two albums were produced from that beautiful week. The first, called 'Conversations,' was released through FM Records (now available through the Roulette Record catalogue). On this, the second, is incorporated performances that were considered too futuristic to put out at that time."

You'd think that, given how few studio albums Dolphy released during his lifetime (let's just leave the innumerable compilations and live albums aside, at least until I've had the time to hear them), his body of work would get a pretty thorough investigation. But that's not the way it goes, unfortunately, which means that the guy's career is divided into two halves: Out to Lunch and the stuff that isn't Out to Lunch.

And, as said before, it's too damn bad. Now,  Out to Lunch is definitely the guy's best album, but I think the other stuff deserves a look, too. This in particular is a great, great release, and its greatness is just hitting me now. It's also pretty firmly avant-garde, probably Dolph's freest release. "Burning Spear" pretty much clears up any doubts about that right away - it's pure chaos, but organized, fascinating chaos, a sort of bizarre take on bebop that I think all jazz fans should hear. That's actually the name of the game for about half this album - check out the powerful title track (no, not that Iron Man. Ozzy wasn't involved, as hilarious as that mix would be), with some weird atonal sax runs that are just so damn interesting, and the lovably quirky "Mandrake." 

The ballads are pretty thoroughly out there, too. For one, neither of them has a piano. That's because there's no piano on this album, period. Which means that the conventional definition of harmony is pretty thoroughly eschewed. And their arrangements are so much different from conventional jazz arrangements, you couldn't be blamed for thinking that you were listening to a different album. "Ode to C.P.," recycled from Far Cry and in my mind largely improved upon here, is a fascinating bass-flute duet, while "Come Sunday" is the oddest Ellington cover you'll ever hear. It doesn't even sound like Ellington anymore. Some might balk at that, but I don't know, I think it's pretty awesome.

Good way to describe this one, really. Not quite as good as Out to Lunch, but it definitely belongs in the same ballpark, and deserves more credit than it gets. Check it out!

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