Eric Dolphy Quintet — Berlin ’61

A recent post made me think of another great innovator of free jazz, as well as third stream music: Eric Dolphy.

Dolphy was an American jazz alto saxophonist, flautist, and bass clarinetist. He was one of several groundbreaking jazz alto players to rise to prominence in the 1960s. He was also the first important bass clarinet soloist in jazz, and among the earliest significant flute soloists. In the years after his death, his music was often described as being “too out to be in and too in to be out.” Among his contemporaries and admirers were Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Oliver Nelson, Herbie Hancock, and a young Frank Zappa would later compose the piece, “The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue” for the Mothers of Invention album, Weasels Ripped My Flesh, in Dolphy’s honor.

“Too out to be in and too in to be out” is also perfect description of Third Stream music – a genre of music located about halfway between jazz and classical music. Improvisation — a key element of jazz, but far less common in classical music — is a vital component of Third Stream. Thus Third Stream can be realized in its “truest” sense when musicians, especially players of traditionally “non-jazz” instruments such as strings, horn, or double reed, learn basic jazz improvisation and style, thus opening up the possibilities of improvisation throughout the ensemble.

In the clip above and the two below, the Eric Dolphy Quintet perform “GW” (alto sax), “God Bless the Child” (bass clarinet), and “245″ (alto sax), respectively from a television broadcast by the German station SWF (Südwestrundfunk) which aired as part #24 of a TV series called “Jazz gehört und gesehen” (Jazz Seen and Heard) at Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, Germany on August 30, 1961.


Eric Dolphy Quintet:

Eric Dolphy – bass clarinet, alto sax
Benny Bailey – trumpet
Pepsi Auer – piano
Jamil Nasser, aka George Joyner – bass
Buster Smith – drum

8 Responses to “Eric Dolphy Quintet — Berlin ’61”

  1. Reuben F. Tourettes says:

    What an appropiately timed post: I purchased Dolphy’s supposed magnum opus ‘Out To Lunch’ just last week; an album of polyrhythmical and syncopated raucity, with a rhythm section that rises far above many others in terms of its responsivity to each of the excellent soloists — (Eric et al.) His influence upon Frank’s compositional style — not just the eponymous posthumous piece wherein he is grilled — is irrefutable.
    Thanks for posting.

  2. Mike says:

    Certainly it was “The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue” from Weasels Ripped My Flesh that got me to research Dolphy’s music. And from that all of Jazz. So from standard hard core rock and roll, I discovered Zappa, and then from Zappa, jazz, and from jazz, finally latin. Now 37 years later, Ed Palermo has a latin version of “take your clothes off…” and my personal continuity is complete.

  3. profusion says:

    Reuben, you should also consider getting Dolphy’s album “Out There”. Another classic. Dolphy was a true original, and it’s a shame that he didn’t live to see more liberated musical times in the late ’60s and ’70s.

    Another jazz musician I like who veered somewhere between playing in and out is Sam Rivers, who is a virtuoso on tenor sax, soprano sax, flute and piano. His album “Dimensions & Extensions” is worth checking out if you like Dolphy’s stuff. Rivers’s later trio music in the ’70s is wilder, but hard to find these days unless you want to pay big bucks for Japanese imports.

  4. peter says:

    I don’t usually push box sets and they can be too overwhelming but in the case of Dolphy the 9cd Prestige box is a no-brainer. Just about all mandatory listening for a jazzbo. And nice to see someone mention Sam Rivers. Truly a fantastic player, most if not all of his Blue Note stuff has been reissued and is all must hear. it is a mystery why his later legendary trio recorings with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul are unavailable. They did a reunion show a couple years ago that I sadly couldn’t atten but heard on the radio. It IS strange how many classic jazz albums are tied up for one reason or another. It seems like nearly the entire Don Pullen/George Adams catalog is oop…and that stuff has mass appeal.

  5. Reuben F. Tourettes says:

    Thanks for the recommendations, Profusion. I just listened to a few Dimensional Sam River’s excerpts on spotify. Very nice. I shall certainly endeavour to obtain said album as soon as the Cocteau Twins albums I ordered have arrived.

  6. profusion says:

    A quote from peter:

    And nice to see someone mention Sam Rivers. Truly a fantastic player, most if not all of his Blue Note stuff has been reissued and is all must hear. it is a mystery why his later legendary trio recorings with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul are unavailable. They did a reunion show a couple years ago that I sadly couldn’t atten but heard on the radio. It IS strange how many classic jazz albums are tied up for one reason or another. It seems like nearly the entire Don Pullen/George Adams catalog is oop…and that stuff has mass appeal.

    I didn’t know about the trio reunion show–would have liked to see that also. Sam is in his eighties now and still plays at a very high level. Very inspiring.

    The ’70s trio stuff was mostly on Impulse Records, and their ’70s catalog is generally hard to get now outside of Japanese mini-sleeve editions. Impulse finally got around to releasing most of Gato Barbieri’s four “Chapter” albums from that period, so maybe they will get around to proper releasing all the stuff from folks like Sam Rivers and Alice Coltrane. I managed to snag a copy of Sam’s great album “Waves” on Tomato Records before it too went out of print. That might be his best trio album of all.

  7. peter says:

    Thanks for the tip on “Waves”…are you aware that the 1966 date with Andrew Hill was finally released on cd fairly recently? It’s the same material that was released as “Involution” under River’s name but now it’s released as “Change” under Hill’s. I also stumbled upon a Don Pullen/Rivers recording recently called “Capricorn Rising.” 1976, I think. Rivers goes nutsa in a very out way on that one.

    Alright, sorry for turning a Dolphy thread into a River.

  8. profusion says:

    Yeah, I have “Change.” That’s a good one. I definitely need to check out “Capricorn Rising.” Thanks for the tip.

    Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny…

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