JJ 07/62: Eric Dolphy – Out There

Sixty years ago 'B.B' extended the usual JJ welcome to new ideas, describing Out To Lunch as a mad conglomeration of distorted cacophony. First published in Jazz Journal July 1962

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When musicians play music that causes uneasiness and great physical pain, is the listener supposed to keep at it until it doesn’t hurt so much? Not me, thanks – life is too full of great and enjoyable music, including Berg and Webern, to make the great effort needed to benefit from this mad conglomeration of distorted cacophony.

Eric Dolphy is in his own way undoubtedly an accom­plished player. The nature of the mater­ial he tackles cannot really be compared to anything gone before, therefore his standards are conveniently his own. He is very clever at “spieling” chorus after chorus on a row of notes that none of us are accustomed to (this could gravely trouble those who are frightened of not being “in on the latest thing”). This is accomplished (and believe me it is an accomplishment) by playing ex­tensions on the extensions of fast “un­usual” progressions.

Another of his accomplishments is to make his bass clarinet sound like his alto. This chang­ing of the instrument’s fundamental tone seems to be the fashion, as Coltrane’s tenor resembles an alto and his soprano an Arabian pipe.

“Out There” is definitely the farthest out I’ve ever heard! This is all enhanced by the quarter tones (or is he just out of tune?) of the cellist, who wins the “strangest noises” prize. The swinging on the record is done by Roy Haynes and George Duvivier. The latter plays a glorious solo on “Serene” and manages to keep us in touch with intonation as we have always known it.

If this is the way jazz is eventually going, and I’m sure it’s not, then there is not a hope in hell, because swing is forsaken for ugly, angular, unmusical noises.

Discography
Out There; Serene; The Baron (17 min) – Eclipse; 17 West; Sketch Of Melba; Feathers (17½ min)
Eric Dolphy (alt, flt, Bb & bs clt); Ron Carter (cello); George Duvivier (bs); Roy Haynes (d). 15/8/60.
(Esquire 32-153 12inLP 39s.)