The Jazzcat

Mostly Dolphy performed by the Luckman Jazz Orchestra!

by on Jan.16, 2005, under News


Eric Dolphy, one of my true heroes of jazz is misunderstood by many while loved and admired by those open to hear and feel the music. Eric was born and raised right here in Los Angeles and graduated from Dorsey High School. His music changed and inspired a culture of musicians and non-musicians alike who understand the dimension of no borders.


Proficient on the soprano, alto, clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute, Eric took his instruments beyond the boundaries of their initial purpose. What is Eric Dolphy all about? Sounds, space, conversation, adventure, provocative progressive cognizance, and an exploration for all that exist in the realm of jazz music. Music inside and outside of the structure.


Jazz is an amoeba that can take different shapes and forms at any given moment do to the presence, or lack there of, of some other extraneous variables. Quite often there is beauty in imperfection. Going for notes that are off of the charts and not particularly getting the perfect sound may seem odd for most. But, much respect is given because of the thought and the balls to go to a place that did not exist before. To seek out that which lies outside the boundaries set by an establishment and gerrymander new dimensions and dividing lines to conquer is what separates those with musical courage from all others. Eric was the one who could speak, scream, shout or not play one note and be heard loud and clear. That is the power of Eric Dolphy!


Tonight the Luckman Jazz Orchestra performed “Mostly Dolphy” music. He may not have written everything we heard but, he left his undeniable stamp all over the music. Many of LA’s fine musicians were performing tonight; Bennie Maupin, Charles Owens, Ndugu Chancelor, Isaac Smith( by way of Brooklyn), Bill Roper, Jeff Littleton and many others graced the stage at the Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex at Cal State Los Angeles to honor and great musician, composer and man of jazz; Eric Allan Dolphy.


A multitalented instrumentalist and one hell of a talent, Eric would evoke some serious conversations among musicians, critics and laymen alike. Either you get it or you don’t. If you are one who gets lost in the cacophony, you have probably been subconsciously programmed by radio, television or some form of advertising that told you what to like and buy. Free yourself from the confines of your mental prison and step outside into the light with your ears wide open. Feel it, become it, speak with it, enjoy it and be welcomed into the matrix of jazz.


Conductor James Newton led the LJO through 2 outstanding sets of music. A slower version of Eric’s “245”, Mal Waldron’s “Fire Waltz”, sweetly arranged by Isaac Smith with some interesting flutes, kooky little percussive sounds, along with piano and  muted trumpet solos that appear to change the time signature. But, with a pause for the cause, Ndugo Chancelor gets it right back on the one! Other tunes included Monk’s “Epistrophy”, Ellington’s “Come Sunday”, dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Straight up and Down”, from Dolphy’s classic album “Out to Lunch” as well as “The Prophet” and “Far Cry”.


Dolphy’s music allows so much space for each performer to freely express themselves. You should see the smiles on the faces of each musician. They are so happy to play this music. There is an elation after each solo that equates a Michael Jordan throw down! With this music, no two musicians will play it the same way twice and we all appreciate the freedom of expression. Eric had such an incredible sound in his head; so advanced that he was truly one of the genius’s of our time.


Buddy Collette came out after intermission and told a few stories about Dolphy. He was responsible for Eric going to New York. Chico Hamilton was looking for a player and wanted Buddy and Buddy suggested that he check out Eric. The rest is history! They seem to understand what Eric was doing in New York, unlike the under appreciative audience that was here in Los Angeles at the time.


Bill Roper, the king of the tuba, came out in Afrothesbiantubalicious attire and schooled the audience on Charles Mingus’ composition “Fable of Faubus”, a revolutionary song about a shady politician who stopped 9 black children from integrating a school. Bennie Maupin tore up an alto solo!


On “Far Cry”, Bennie Maupin and Conductor James Newton played like Dolphy himself was on stage. Like the two beams of light that represented our Twin Towers, the same beems of light transported the sharp and low twin spirits of Dolphy.
I don’t know what kind of music that you play when you lay down next to your loved one but, forget about that tired ass “Jazz is for Lovers” CD that you bought while watching late night television. Play some Eric Dolphy music and tear that —- up! It’s an orgasm of the very best kind!


LeRoy Downs



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