Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions – Resonance Records HLP 9035 – 3 LP 180 gm Monaural audiophile box set – to be released on Record Store Day (Nov. 23, 2018)- Limited Edition 1st pressing of 3000 copies ****

(Eric Dolphy – bass clarinet, flute, alto sax; William “Prince” Lasha – flute; Huey “Sonny” Simmons – alto sax; Clifford Jordan – soprano sax; Woody Shaw – trumpet; Garvin Bushell – bassoon; Bobby Hutcherson – vibes; Richard Davis – bass; Eddie Kahn – bass; J. C. Moses – drums; Charles Moffett – drums)

Both audiophile vinyl collectors,as well as fans of multi-instrumentalist, Eric Dolphy, have reason to rejoice on the upcoming Record Store Day (November 23, 2018/ Black Friday). Well in advance of releasing the 3 CD version of previously unissued Eric Dolphy studio recordings from 1963, Resonance Records is sweetening the pot big-time with an HQ-180 gm three vinyl set mastered by Bernie Grundman-pressed by RTL.

Dolphy released Conversations, and Iron Man back in the 1960s, recorded in stereo, but the mono recordings as well as 85 minutes of unissued material remained with his estate until the “jazz detective,” Zev Feldman, working with flautist, James Newton, received permission from Dolphy’s Trust, and sessions producer, Alan Douglas’ Estate, to release these historical valued studio dates from the sadly brief recording career of Dolphy. Eric died a year later while touring Europe on June 29, 1964. It was a tragic death, and quite possibly preventable, as Dolphy died from undiagnosed diabetes, after reportedly putting too much honey in his tea, and receiving sub-par care.

Here, we have creative wide ranging musical genres, blending poly modal free jazz with classical influences, combining subtly gentle and poignant duo music, with his primary bassist, Richard Davis; to more free ranging abstract themes with avant musicians, Sonny Simmons, and Prince Lasha. Meeting in the middle, there are tracks with an 18 year old trumpeter, Woody Shaw (his first studio recordings), and early meetings with vibist, Bobby Hutcherson, and Clifford Jordan, (on soprano sax only). Basically, there is something for everyone here.

Feldman and Newton found seven and a half hours of recordings, which they have distilled down to 159 minutes, with 85 minutes never before heard by the public. It’s the first new material from Eric in the last 30 years. From an historical perspective, we get to experience Dolphy a year prior from his most well known release, Blue Note’s Out to Lunch album. In addition, Resonance has included as a bonus track, a fifteen minute version of “A Personal Statement,” an intense political statement recorded eight months later, in Ann Arbor, Mi. before Eric left for Europe, that includes pianist Bob James in a setting that will make you rethink what you know about James’ musical tastes.  It wasn’t my unsweetened musical cup of tea, but to each his own.

Also included on this release are two versions of a brand new composition, a sublime “Muses for Richard Davis” that features some incredibly moving arco bass from Davis. Dolphy’s intervallic leaps are featured as well, and the two musical partners are in full symbiotic heaven blending the tranquil, with the wild passion of Dolphy’s bass clarinet. Eric was a master of this instrument, and also had a progressive influence on future jazz flautists.

The Conversations sessions begin with Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.” It’s a great opportunity to experience the more joyous side of Dolphy. Eric’s use of quarter notes, described by some as “birdsong” is evident here. Woody Shaw’s power at such a young age is mind blowing, as are Hutcherson’s talents on vibes. “Music Matador” is one of the most approachable tracks from the Lasha, Simmons, Jordan front lines, as it blends blues with a Caribbean strut. A solo version (two other takes are available on Side E) of “Love Me” has Dolphy in full flight, honking on his alto sax, free form but still in the pocket.

Side B has Dolphy and Davis, on “Alone Together.” Richard is a great foil for Eric, equally creative, but also steady, providing the pulse for Dolphy to improvise, switching instruments, and deconstructing a standard.

On the Iron Man sessions we have more avant garde themes on the title track, “Mandrake,” and also on “Burning Spear,” renamed for Jomo Kenyatta, the first prime minister of Kenya, who was given that nickname. Its octet does bring on visions of a roaring lion’s power. Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” done again by Davis and Dolphy, is absolutely gorgeous with Richard’s arco bass melting your heart, and Eric’s bass clarinet, resonant, and so soulful.

The same can’t be said for “A Personal Statement,” especially with the vocals of David Schwartz, which are admirable for their range (operatic approaching that of a soprano) but with a nails on a chalkboard experience for me. It reminded me of performance art in a loft setting. Bob James does get an opportunity to show off future piano skills, though.

The third LP features all alternate takes from both sessions, and it is fun to compare these tracks with the previous versions, especially those of “Music Matador” and “Jitterbug Waltz.”

It is highly important to note the excellent fidelity of these vinyl releases. What is even more extraordinary, is the 20 page LP sized liner notes, as well as the archival photos included. There are essays from jazz historian, Robin D. G. Kelly, as well as remembrances from iconic musicians including Sonny Rollins, Henry Threadgill, David Murray, and younger artists like Nicole Mitchell and Steve Coleman, who describe the influence that Eric Dolphy has had on their musical development. What is clear is the love and admiration that they all have for an artist, whose flame was so briefly shared.

The 3-CD version of this set won’t be available until late January. Savvy collectors will want the “Full Monty” 3 LP version, available with all the goodies, at the end of this month. With only 3000 available, it might be smart to get in line at your local record shop, promptly on Black Friday…

Tracklist:
LP 1:
Side A:
Jitterbug Waltz
Music Matador
Love Me

Side B:
Alone Together
Muses for Richard Davis-Unissued #1
Muses for Richard Davis-Unissued #2

LP 2:
Side C:
Iron Man
Mandrake
Come Sunday
Burning Spear

Side D:
Ode to Charlie Parker
A Personal Statement
LP 3: (Previously Unissued Studio Recordings)

Side E:
Music Matador
Love Me (alt take)
Love Me (alt take)
Alone Together

Side F:
Jitterbug Waltz
Mandrake
Burning Spear

Jeff Krow

 

Link for more information from Resonance Records here.