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The Complete Latin Jazz Sides

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Album Review

Eric Dolphy's The Complete Latin Jazz Sides, issued as a compilation on Gambit, places two different 1960 sessions for different labels together as well as a bonus track taken from Max Roach's album Percussion Bitter Sweet to close the disc out. Despite the billing of the Latin Jazz Quintet, the only common point in these lineups was Dolphy playing alto, flute, and bass clarinet. The first session was entitled Caribé by the Latin Jazz Quintet + Eric Dolphy. It was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1960 for Prestige under their New Jazz imprint (catalog number 8251). The lineup consisted of Juan Amalbert on congas; Gene Casey on piano; bassist Bill Ellington; vibraphonist Charlie Simons; and Manny Ramos on drums and timbales. The entire set has a laid-back feel, more Afro-Cuban than anything else, and its high point is certainly the title track, written by Casey. The band does not drive Dolphy into using his considerable abilities, but it’s hardly lazy. Instead, this is the lyrical side of the great musician, who is interested in wooing listeners rather than blowing them away. Simons' vibes work is a beautiful counterpart to Dolphy’s on all three instruments, but particularly on the flute. The second session included here was billed simply as The Latin Jazz Quintet and was released on United Artists as UAL 4071. It was recorded later in the year with a lineup that features Dolphy under the leadership of vibraphonist Felipe Diaz with pianist Arthur Jenkins, Bobby Rodriguez on bass, Tommy Lopez on congas, and Louis Ramirez on timbales. The music mainly consists of Latin takes on jazz standards such as “Speak Low,” “A Night in Tunisia,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” etc. Diaz is on the front line with Dolphy head to head on the lovely — and slightly humorous — “Cha Cha King,” as well as “I Wish I Were in Love Again,” where Dolphy uses his alto to move outside just a tad. The final cut, “The Man from South Africa,” from a 1961 session with Roach, features Dolphy in the company of Booker Little, Julian Priester, Clifford Jordan, Mal Waldron, and Art Davis. Needless to say, it cooks hotter than anything else here. This set, while a beautiful and lyrical listen, is likely to appeal mostly to Dolphy completists because of its uncharacteristic exotic setting — but that said, it doesn’t make it any less compelling than anything else he recorded during the period. The Gambit compilation comes with a 12-page booklet containing photos of the original cover art, complete sessionography, and elementary liner notes.


Born: 20 June 1928 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s

Eric Dolphy was a true original with his own distinctive styles on alto, flute, and bass clarinet. His music fell into the "avant-garde" category yet he did not discard chordal improvisation altogether (although the relationship of his notes to the chords was often pretty abstract). While most of the other "free jazz" players sounded very serious in their playing, Dolphy's solos often came across as ecstatic and exuberant. His improvisations utilized very wide intervals, a variety of nonmusical speechlike...
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