JJ 12/61: Ken McIntyre & Eric Dolphy – Looking Ahead

Sixty years ago Humphrey Lyttelton wondered, given the harmonic saturation of jazz, if Dolphy had found a new expressionist way forward. First published in Jazz Journal December 1961


Eric Dolphy is fast becoming a name to conjure with. He is a formidable musician with a strong sense of his own powers and direction. A few months ago I heard him perform on a television show in West Berlin. For his second number he played an unaccompanied, three-and-a-half minute solo on bass clarinet. (A far cry, you’ll agree, from Trad Fad).

He belongs to the group of players which, if you stand far enough back, can be seen to constitute a ‘school’ incorporating among others both John Coltrane and Ornette Cole­man. The superficialities of their style are controlled over-blowing, a hard, nervous tone, extensive use of harmon­ics and, in general, an apparent am­bition to extend the range of sounds available on a saxophone far beyond anything envisaged by Adolph Sax.

Ken McIntyre – a name unknown to me until this moment – belongs to the same school. In his use of staccato ‘laughing’ phrases there is a throw-back to Pete Brown, but this is probably coincidence. On listening to this LP, various appro­priate epithets spring to mind – ‘stimula­ting’, ‘exciting’, ‘provocative’, ‘aggres­sive’ and even ‘hot’. Others must be more sparsely used. The music is spora­dically ‘relaxed’, ‘attractive’, ‘melodic’, and ‘rich’ – but only sporadically.

To a nervous svstem attuned to the serenity of a Johnny Hodges or the poise of a Buck Clayton, this music has for the most part a tenseness which is disturb­ing. It seems to underline a dilemma in modern jazz . . . where next? Since bop, jazz has taken harmonic expansion al­most to the limit. To create the sort of stir essential to a modern jazz musician in this hectic and impetuous age, there’s little scope left in the harmonic field.

What do vou do? Kick over the bar lines and the chordal foundations like Ornette Coleman? Flirt with classical forms like John Lewis? Become absorbed in introspection like Miles Davis? Or try to push the emotional content of jazz beyond the bounds of inhibition, like Dolphy, Mclntyre and Co.? While you’re thinking this out, take this LP to brush up on your Dolphy. We shall be bearing a lot of him in future, Kruschev permitting.

Lautir; Curtsy; Geo’s Tune; They All Laughed (22½ min) – Head Shakin’; Dianna (20½ min)
Ken Mclntyre, Eric Dolphy (alt/flt/bs-clt); Walter Bishop Jr (p); Sam Jones (bs); Arthur Taylor (d). 28/6/60.
(Esquire 32-133 12inLP 41s.)