Saturday, July 18, 2009
Best Live Jazz: Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot
Another Five Spot live recording that was dead spot on has Eric Dolphy and trumpeter Booker Little joining forces in 1961. If you follow this blog, you will know that I am a great admirer of Dolphy. He shows up at a lot of critical moments. Trane's works with Dolphy on board come to mind. His presence on Andrew Hill's marvelous Point of Departure is another. I would also add his appearance on George Russel's Ezz-thetics, and Oliver Nelson's magnificent Blues and the Abstract Truth. I find Dolphy's corpus, remarkably large for the small time (about four years) that he had in the spotlight, to be a rich vein in the corroding cliff face of modern music. He was a virtuoso on three instruments: flute, alto sax, and bass clarinet. I am especially attracted to the latter. I suspect that, had he lived a longer life, we would be putting him on the first shelf of jazz history. Maybe we will do that anyway.
The Five Spot recordings are jazz gems. Booker Little's trumpet takes second billing. Little also played on Dolphy's best single work, in my humble opinion, Far Cry. Like Dolphy, Little died very young, about three months after the Five Spot date. He left just enough work to whet an unrequited appetite. This was no ordinary horn.
If Dolphy and Little weren't enough, Mal Waldron plays piano. I have given a lot of attention to Waldron's later duets. I think that these latter works establish Waldron's position as a jazz genius of the first rank. He is not given prominence on the Five Spot recordings, but he certainly supports the show. Richard Davis joins him on bass, and Ed Blackwell plays drums.
The Five Spot date was documented on three albums: Eric Dolphy and Booker Little at the Five Spot, Volumes 1 and 2, and Eric Dolphy and Booker Little Memorial Album. Go ahead and invest in the set. All can be had at eMusic.
Here is a sample: