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Last Date

Eric Dolphy

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Album Review

Allegedly Eric Dolphy's final recorded performance — a fact historians roundly dispute — this session in Hilversum, Holland, teams the masterful bass clarinetist, flutist, and alto saxophonist with a Dutch trio of performers who understand the ways in which their hero and leader modified music in such a unique, passionate, and purposeful way far from convention. In pianist Misha Mengelberg, bassist Jacques Schols, and drummer Han Bennink, Dolphy was firmly entwined with a group who understood his off-kilter, pretzel logic concept in shaping melodies and harmonies that were prime extensions of Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, and Cecil Taylor. These three Dolphy originals, one from Monk, one from Mengelberg, and a standard are played so convincingly and with the utmost courage that they created a final stand in the development of how the woodwindist conceived of jazz like no one else before, during, or after his life. Utterly masterful on his flute during "You Don't Know What Love Is," Dolphy's high-drama vibrato tones are simply out of this or any other world, perfectly emoting the bittersweet intent of this song. The ribald humor demonstrated during "Miss Ann" is a signature sound of Dolphy's alto sax, angular like Monk, jovial and more out of the box while he digs in. Where "Epistrophy" might seem standard fare to some, with Dolphy on bass clarinet it is based on voicings even more obtuse than the composer's concept, bouncing along the wings of Mengelberg's piano lines. The post-bop blues of "South Street Exit" is tuneful while also breaking off into tangents, with Bennink's crazy drumming acting like shooting, exploding stars. As the definitive track on this album, "The Madrig Speaks, the Panther Walks" demonstrates the inside-out concept, with mixed tempos changed at will and a 6/8 time insert with Dolphy's choppy alto merging into playful segments as the title suggests — a most delightful track. The ridiculously titled "Hypochristmutreefuzz" might be the most understated fare in its more simple angularity, as Schols plays his bass in the upper register while the band dances around him. Last Date is one of those legendary albums whose reputation grows with every passing year, and deservedly so. While it reveals more about the genius rhythm section than Dolphy himself, it also marks the passing of one era and the beginning of what has become a most potent and enduring legacy of European creative improvised tradition, started by Mengelberg and Bennink at this mid-'60s juncture. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Biography

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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