Eric Dolphy’s Out There, his second album as leader, stretched jazz, well, out there. The sessions dynamics boasted Dolphy playing two songs apiece on alto, bass clarinet, and flute and an unlikely clarinet track. It is absolutely some of his finest work, composing and playing. Joining Dolphy for the ride, you got Ron Carter on cello (what!), George Duvivier on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. Out There is a major step in Dolphy becoming was of the most unique voices in jazz history.
The title track gets things going with a bumping feel that features fine solos from Dolphy and Carter. Dolphy’s playing in particular reaches sonic levels of quickness and range, sometimes spooky but always hypnotic. After an upbeat, the band settles down for “Serene.” It is clear that many of these hooks that the saxophonist is displaying have never been hear before, like he’s free but always with a distant melody keeping everything in check. “The Baron” showcases a fierce solo by Carter. The usual bass player approaches the cello as if it was a new toy to play with.
One of the most beautiful arrangements on the album is the Charles Mingus number “Eclipse.” But what seems cemented in the mind after listening to Out There is the mysteriously seductive feel on “Feathers.” On the track, Dolphy and Carter, along with the rest of the band, create some of the most moving music known to man. Plucking and moaning itself into a slow thump jazz swirl. It’s as if the instruments are all talking and whatever they’re saying makes you understand.
Out There, only 34 minutes long, sounds fresher with every listen. The saxophonist was on his way to really expanding the instruments that he played even further, which makes it amazing to think of how far he would have taken it if he hadn’t died just four years later in 1964.
What I've been listening on:
Chick Corea and Return to Forever Light as a Feather
Medeski, Martin & Wood 12/1/00
Booker T. and the MG's Green Onions
New Thing!: A Soul Jazz Compilation
Grant Green Talkin' About