Thursday, February 10, 2005
Eric Dolphy: Iron Man.
HurdAudio is now in the thick of Black History Month. It's been a great chance to focus on and blog about some great music in my personal collection. Tonight I put on Iron Man by Eric Dolphy from 1962.
Eric Dolphy's recording career was far too brief as complications from diabetes removed him from this dimension by 1964. One can only imagine how he might have built upon his innovations given more time. His harmonic sensibility is extremely attractive to my ears. It sounds startlingly different from the polytonal edge of Coleman's harmelodic approach while retaining many of its "out" properties. Perhaps much of Dolphy's sound can be attributed to the clean, spare lines he carves around the prevailing harmonic landscape. He clearly tapped into something that informs these arrangements, these compositions and most of all these great solos.
Iron Man opens with the title track that roars in with a full ensemble playing at an up tempo bop. Bobby Hutcherson on the vibraphone adds an interesting twist to the instrumentation. The percussive precision maintains the uncluttered harmonic sound that makes these arrangements so arresting.
"Burning Spear" has some great Dolphy textures featuring trills in the wind parts as the rhythm section holds course. It also features two basses (Richard Davis and Eddie Kahn) often filling up both the arco and pizzicato spaces simultaneously. Eric Dolphy's bass clarinet work is exceptional on this track.
Balanced against the ensemble numbers are two duets with bassist Richard Davis that are the true gems of this disc. Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" is presented as a languid dialogue between bass clarinet and arco bass. "Ode to Charles Parker" closes out the disc with a deft interplay between flute and bass.