Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eric Dolphy - Fire Waltz (1961)

Eric Dolphy is one of my favorite jazz players, as he fluidly balanced the atonal avant-garde jazz of the 60s with the flying chordal improvisation of bop. He follows chords in fleeting flurries of notes that are sometimes quick, dissonant trills and other times smooth melodic arcs. This is one of the more delightful games of expectation vs. reality, as Dolphy clearly always knows exactly what he's doing. Where is his melody going next? There is a nice overall logic to how far out there and how regularly he travels before returning to his harmonic base.

On "Bee Waltz," which has a nice two part chord progression, Dolphy brings out the bass clarinet, and opens with a variety of bubbling dissonances before settling into a rapidfire melodic arc following the quick ii-V chord changes. Observing his choice of melody or dissonance over the two parts of the harmonic structure of the tune is fascinating. He tends to favor melody over the ii-V part for most of his solo, and settles between "free" wailing and modal gymnastics for the first part of the progression. Really really really stimulating, which is good for me since I crave stimulation.

Also, funny that this is called "Fire Waltz" as Dolphy's playing is, to me, quite airy, blue and wet. Sort of an elemental opposite, I guess (terrible, terrible cards btw). Uh, who wants to play Magic I still have some decks.


thesunchild said...

Thanks Knife, big Dolphy fan over here, though I've never heard this one.

Todd said...

Tru, it's actually a live date at which I don't think Dolphy was billed as the leader. However, my copy of this album is different than the one listed on allmusic. Maybe I will take a look at this when I get home if I am feeling jazz curious.

thesunchild said...

I finally listened to Fire Waltz, and it was not at all what I was expecting, i.e. it doesn't sound like Out to Lunch. I loved it though, of course. Reminds me of Dolphy's better-than-OtL record Outward Bound or something like The Sidewinder!