Recent listening, current

Monday, April 29, 2013

96. Eric Dolphy / Conversations (1963)

The first side of this LP contains loosely swinging and glittering interpretations of two tunes ("Jitterbug Waltz" and "Musical Matador") that are, upon first impression, standard enough. But in Dolphy's hands they are things transmuted: multiform, elastic musical caricatures, elating and jubiliant. They are filled with evocative solos by Dolphy and feature tantalizing interplay with his group. Bobby Hutcherson paints the walls with thick chords and his two independently minded mallets seem to dance in circles while Dolphy ambulates on whichever instrument in the foreground. While the second side contains a shade of what colors the first, it is largely a different, darker and more serious, affair. Still rooted deeply in traditional material and reverently anchored to its origins, the music of Side Two seeks progress in the opposite direction. Like Dolphy's solo extemporizing of "Love Me," where his phrases adopt the cadence and tonality of the human voice and the alto literally speaks. In an impassioned conversation between two lovers (I think, but who knows?), he blows figures that invoke the ballad's humanity: blind, animalistic and primal sounds of raw feelings. It is beautiful but also adeptly cerebral, setting the stage for the centerpiece to come, "Alone Together." This is a reaching, expressionistic and inherently modern synthesis of traditional jazz and contemporary art music. Together with  The Iron Man (recorded during the same sessions and itself another under-appreciated slab of Dolphy alchemy) the two records play like notecards to Dolphy's thesis presented on Out to Lunch. The final 13-minute piece creeps along just Davis and Dolphy, capriciously turning corners and building up others in its wake, as if trying to lose an unseen pursuer. With the preponderance of university and public radio jazz programs, this octet needs more attention. Airplay, airplay! It's like a Dolphy codex, a smaller, more manageable prototype of the brilliance that was to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment