04 April 2011

The Jams

April kicks off, and I've been off the radar for a few days...catching up on some sleep. Let's begin this month with an installment of "The Jams", featuring Eric Dolphy's "Out There", recently acquired on a brief stint in New York.
Seen here is the original cover art from it's release in 1960, certainly out there for the time.

Mine is a re-issue from 1969, though still on the Prestige label. Perhaps a bit more aesthetically in line with the look of jazz records, but no matter, still the same jams, and still listenable by way of needle and wood. Worth every bit of the ten dollars I paid for it at Westsider Records, a dusty place that was someones apartment once upon a million years ago... my favorite kind of place.

I can remember the first time I heard this record straight through. I already knew Eric Dolphy by way of his work with Charles Mingus mostly. WHRB, the Harvard radio station, has a show called The Jazz Spectrum, from 5:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. every morning. Mostly, it's a great way to hear great jazz without having to pick, so long as the d.j. is good, which they frequently are. The station is also famous for it's "orgies"...marathon sessions of one artists work, often lasting for more than a day at a stretch...Killer.

When the boy was but two, I would drive him three times a week to my mother-law's place before heading to work myself. On a good day, the drive was at least 40 minutes on the highway, on a bad day, forget it. On one such bad day, however, old HRB was running an Eric Dolphy orgy, and I heard this whole slab, on vinyl at that. I could here Harvard's old copy crackling over the speakers of the car radio.

Anyway, it killed me than and I was immediately placed on a mission to find it. Many of you will say that a mere ten minutes on the internet that very day would have landed this in my hands, and I guess you'd be right, but my beliefs on the subject of musical reproduction have been documented before, and I don't like to cheat or compromise when it comes to this kind of (important) stuff.

Then one day I find myself in New York for the J. Press toss-off sale, and Tin Tin sees fit to take me to Westsider, and I find it, and I'm thrilled, so much so that I no longer care if I score a damn thing at J. Press. I've got my gripes with New York, but the ability to turn up superb jazz vinyl at great prices is not one of them. That was a week and a half ago. I've listened to it a dozen times since then...I'm listening to it now.

In it's time, this record, and Dolphy in general for that matter, was extremely cutting edge, the very definition of the Jazz avante garde. It's kind of free jazz, but it's clearly structured, too. The instrumentation is a pinch unorthodox, with Dolphy playing sax, clarinet, flute and bass clarinet..you know, like he does, George Duvivier on bass, Roy Haynes on drums, and Ron Carter, known to be a bassist, on cello. What strikes me most is he way that the music just seems to roll out of these guys. There's kind of a melody, then kind of a bunch of solos, then kind of melody again...it rolls right through. There's an up tempo number underpinned by walking bass and peppy brush work on the drums...and it rolls along. There's slow jams, carried by Dolphy's guttural bass clarinet...and it rolls along. There are pretty moments full of delicate flute work...and it rolls right along. Ron Carter takes a jazz cello solo(?)...no one skips a beat, least of all the listener. It's the kind of jazz album that 51 years (yikes!) since it was recorded, people who don't get jazz point to as an example of the elitism and alloofness of jazz. It's also the kind of record jazz heads point to as an example of jazz's democracy. Don't think about it, just feel it.

I for one love it, and so do my kids. It makes them dance, and a truer test of music has yet to be devised. If you love jazz, turn it on and enjoy a cocktail. If you don't love jazz, at least you can use this record to make yourself feel smarter, like when people wear fake glasses and listen to classical music they don't get.

In closing:

Not anything from "Out There", but a great example of Dolphy on the bass clarinet, and instument he practically brought to jazz singlehandedly. Mingus (bass) and Danny Richmond (drums) ain't half bad niether.


Phil Asby said...

G - A very nice piece and I'll have to look this up myself. My late father was a jazz fan(atic) and I inherited his record collection, and through my listening to the stuff as a kid, a good bit of his tastes. He was a relatively adventurous listener for someone of his generation - WWII vet - and generally veered toward what was for the time relatively cutting edge. Particularly the West Coast sound - and specifically Stan Kenton who he worshipped. But he also had a good helping of Coltrane and Monk and Miles. But no Eric Dolphy. To some extent my interest wanes about the time Miles hit Bitches Brew as well. And I never got Ornette Coleman. But this sounds like a very nice "transition" piece that blends free jazz moments without going completely off the rails.

Thanks for the heads up!

Mxolisi Ngonelo said...

I like the piece about the college radio station that plays jazz from the AM till late in the morning, something unheard of in South Africa. I wonder whether radio execs would be willing to practicalise such an idea.

Giuseppe, this jazz show, was it an everyday thing or just once a week? Because in this country you hear jazz on the radio once a week, for 3 hours at best.

T said...

Gotta admit, "The Jams" is rapidly becoming my favorite series of posts that you do. Well done.

mpr said...

I'll second WHRB,they recently played nearly every Bob Dylan song and probably about a three day's worth of bootlegs. They also have a killer country show if your tastes trend that way (mine do)and if you happen to find yourself in Boston on a saturday morning, WMBR, MIT's radio station also has some great shows.

And for those of you in South Africa, you can stream both over the internet.

Those two radio stations are two of the things I miss most about Boston.

Zach said...

This post may be my favorite Jams post yet. Dolphy is such an influence on so many musicians that may not even realize it. You have some very good tastes, sir. If you ever make it to Nashville, please look me up and we can scour some records stores for gold and have a few cocktails while we are at it.

hurj al-adurj said...

I guess i should move this bookmark from my 'fashion' folder to my 'music' folder

Giuseppe said...


Monday throgh Friday, 5:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. At night, there's WGBH. Eric Jackson, an old veteran, holds court till midnight. He's a great source for waht's new in Jazz.


if you like jazz check out the soundtrack of bedazzled with dudley moore