04 April 2012

Day 1 (Five Days of Lunch)

Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, that is.  A friend in Colorado was kind to ask my thoughts on the album.
This is probably my favorite Dolphy album.  To be sure, I have twin ‘angles’ onto his music, as a clarinet-playing composer, and as a Zappa enthusiast (first I ever heard of Dolphy was via Zappa).  I appreciate how strange it may sound to someone coming to it the first time (and that other-ness, justified by its assured center of gravity, is one of the things I really like about the music) . . . I’ll jot the odd idea or two down . . . .

Track 1: “Hat and Beard”

I’ll say at the start that I like best, how it all hangs together. For the following will have the seeming of a laundry list, you know.

The descending walking bass, which sets up the metrical framework: it’s in 9, but not your straightforward 3+3+3; it’s constantly got the feeling of a subdivided 4, which winds up somehow surprised.

How Dolphy starts out in the “head” by shadowing the bass on the bass clarinet.

In general the range of ‘voice’ which Dolphy coaxes out of a bass clarinet, his extraordinary control of the instrument, and how beautiful his ‘straight’ tone can be.

The volcanic energy of his solo: comes across as the way that Stravinsky was trying to write for the bass clarinet in Le sacre, only the orchestra of the day could not have borne it (and there would have been a proper scandal).

Freddie Hubbard’s exquisite solo, which compliments Dolphy’s so marvelously.  They both drive through with an admirable restlessness, which is never aimless.

How during Hubbard’s solo, in particular, Richard Davis’s bass settles into a minimalist, quasi-Spanish ostinato. (This ‘dimming’ makes the return to the “head’s” walking bass descent a strikingly clear ‘arrival’.)

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