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Art of the Night
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blue note album covers week
out to lunch
Jimmy Smith is the undisputed innovator of jazz organ playing. He was also a major recording star for Blue Note records and an incredibly prolific one at that, producing over 30 titles for the label. He was famous for monstrously long recording sessions, days in a row and was an all-out performer who released several live discs.
Home Cookin’, was culled from 3 sessions between mid-1958 and mid-1959. The supercool cover was taken in front of Kate’s Home Cooking, on 126th Street in Harlem, near the backstage entrance to the Apollo Theater. Jimmy was rather photogenic, with his effervescent smile, and has many Blue Note album covers worthy of being represented here in this series. Home Cookin’ has it all, and that’s why it’s framed in my kitchen!
Eric Dolphy was a genius. A brilliant multi-instrumentalist who specialized in the bass clarinet, flute and alto sax. He was well-educated in both classical & jazz and served time in the military. He was an only child and quiet & well-mannered. He refrained from the alcohol & drug abuse that took so many of his peers lives too early, yet barely made it past his 36th birthday. He had a tumor on his forehead, pain in his oral cavity, a bad leg and was a diabetic.
Dolphy was also misunderstood as a musician, dismissed as a completely avant-garde player. The fact of the matter is, Dolphy actually heard every one of those notes in his head and they were the perfect notes in the perfect places. He was also quite adept at playing a beautiful ballad, lyrically & melodically.
His highest profile gigs were with John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. Dolphy was so reserved, he once quit the Mingus gig, because he didn’t enjoy being around the bandleader’s angry outbursts. Dolphy’s uniqueness was adored by the musicians he worked with and he inspired them wholly.
The vast majority of Dolphy’s recording career, took place between 1958-1964. The bulk of that was crammed into 1960 & 1961. During this time, he was a main artist for Prestige Records, which issued a 9- cd box set in the mid-90’s. Besides several albums as a leader for the label, he also worked with: Oliver Nelson, Mal Waldron, Booker Little, Ron Carter, Ken McIntyre and others.
Dolphy’s masterpiece, is Out To Lunch on Blue Note Records. Every note of this instant classic is absolutely perfect. A life altering record. The album cover, is every bit as good as Eric’s cohorts – Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Richard Davis & Tony Williams. This 1964 work of art hangs proudly in my living room!
A month after Out To Lunch, Dolphy was a sideman on another all-star lineup for Blue Note Records. Andrew Hill’s seminal album Point Of Departure, featured Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson and the same rhythm section of Richard Davis & Tony Williams. When you have brilliant soloists like Dorham, Henderson & Hill preceding you and you shine so far and above everyone, you know you’re something special. If you’re spinning track 1 here and the music is on in the background, the moment Dolphy enters, you will be involuntarily forced to stop what you’re doing and stare at the stereo in disbelief at what is coming out of the speakers. I’ll go as far as saying that Eric Dolphy is THE single most unique, distinctive & fiery performer *ever*!!!
Blue Note issued 2 other Dolphy titles, both originally recorded before Out To Lunch. The Illinois Concert is a good live record, while Other Aspects should’ve remained in the vaults. Eric Dolphy died way too young, but left an indelible legacy through many incredible recordings, of which Out To Lunch is the best and absolutely essential.
Dude, great shit. You are the professor!
A few addendums to the Dolphy post...
The 9cd box set on Prestige, was culled from 13 sessions, which yielded 18 albums. All were recorded between April 1960-Sept. 1961.
An important, yet overlooked solo album in Eric Dolphy's catalog, is Iron Man. It came out in 1963, the year before Out To Lunch, and 3 of the 5 tracks are a portend of what was to come. Bobby Hutcherson & Richard Davis were already on board. Clifford Jordan and the wonderful Woody Shaw are present, as is J.C. Moses, the drummer from The Illinois Concert (also 1963). There's a nice reissue CD of this on the Jazz World label. It's easy to find and not expensive. If you're an Out To Lunch fan and want more Dolphy in this style, I highly recommend this disc!
The unique/distinctive tag can't be argued, but let me explain my use of the term "fiery". Dolphy was not a dynamic performer, but the music that spewed forth from inside him, through whichever woodwind instrument was his vehicle at that moment, was volcanic hot. Every genre has their "fiery" performers and Dolphy doesn't fit in the 'stage presence' aspect of the term, but it's all but impossible to miss the urgency in his soloing.
For me, "fiery" performers of their instrument, in their genre, would include: Evelyn Glennie (classical percussion), Steve Vai (rock), Oteil Burbridge (jam band) and of course, Buddy Rich (jazz).
 Indeed. thelarmis, your students are very lucky. I'm such an absurd jazz fan but as a non-musician I am often lost with overly technical reviews. Your writing is clear and informative. Keep it coming!
Oh, and I absolutely adore both Jimmy Smith and Eric Dolphy. Titans of music, plain and simple!
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