Friday, January 18, 2019

Art Ensemble of Chicago - The John Litweiler Interview

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"Once you've heard the Art Ensemble of Chicago it's hard not to appreciate the zaniness, sobriety and universality of their music. Once the music gets to you, you find yourself anxiously awaiting the next installment."
- JAZZ TIMES October, 1980

With the release over the holidays of ECM's 21-CD box set Art Ensemble Of Chicago And Associated Ensembles and the notification of the passing of Joseph Jarman, a prominent member of the AEC, on January 9, 2019, the Art Ensemble of Chicago has been very much on my mind in recent days.

While reflecting on the AEC, I remembered that John B. Litweiler had contributed another of his masterful interviews about the group to Downbeat, so I sought it out so to share it on these pages.

What follows appeared in the magazine’s 1972 Music Annual under the title - The Art Ensemble of Chicago - There Won’t Be Anymore Music.

As you read the piece, please keep in mind that it was written almost a half century ago.

"You know, someday soon there won't be any more music. Oh, there'll still be musicians, but they'll only be playing in their homes, in their living rooms, for their families and other friends. Money! That's what it's all about." —Roscoe Mitchell. Oct. 1, 1971

The Art Ensemble of Chicago began in fall of 1968, when the Roscoe Mitchell Ensemble (Lester Bowie, trumpet; Mitchell, alto sax, woodwinds; Malachi Favors, bass; all, percussion) added altoist-woodwind soloist Joseph Jarman.
Since late 1961, Jarman and Mitchell had performed frequently together in several Chicago groups and had realized that their destinies paralleled. Over the years Jarman had sought a poised, lyrical, dramatic art. Mitchell, no less dramatic, consciously seated a more melodic, expressive and complexly internally structured music with various partners — Favors, Bowie, trombonist Lester Lashley, tenorist Maurice Mclntyre, drummer Philip Wilson — who shared his ideals.

The parallel concepts of drama, the common philosophies of what jazz is and ought to be, and the years of rehearsing and sometimes  performing together brought about the union of Jarman and the Mitchell group. Also known as "Joseph Jarman and Company" and "The Lester Bowie Quartet" on  occasion, the Art Ensemble of Chicago performed usually in their hometown for small fees at concerts they set up themselves. In June 1969 they and their array of instruments sailed to France (Jarman: "On the S.S. United States — Zoom!"). Bowie and  his family found a country estate near Paris, and for nearly two years the Art Ensemble lived there. In that time they recorded 11 LPs, three movie soundtracks, and performed in hundreds of concerts throughout France, Germany, Holland. Italy, Scandinavia.

Along the way Mitchell, Jarman, Bowie and Favors added a young drummer, Don Moye (who came from Detroit). The Art Ensemble of Chicago established its reputation once and for all in Europe, winning a handful of awards from European societies and magazines, and from America's DownBeat. In order to return home in April of 1971, the Art Ensemble had to peddle masters of material they had recorded on their own initiative.

Joseph Jarman: (Born Sept. 14, 1937, in Pine Bluff, Ark) moved to Chicago at an early age. I had always been interested in music, because my uncle was a jazz fan —  Illinois Jacquet, Lester Young, Nat Cole, Basie, Ellington. World War II—they came out of the Army and brought all of that music. They were even into Charlie Parker in 1946. I went to DuSable (high school) about 1954 and started to study drums with (Captain) Walter Dyett. And then I didn't study them again. Then I went off into space. I went into the Army, and I had to get out of the line, so I bought a saxophone and got me a saxophone teacher and learned the fundamentals and auditioned for the Army band. I stayed there for about a year and a half. I started to study clarinet because they had too many saxophones.

Then I got out of the Army and wandered around for a couple of years. I went to discover America. I had an alto saxophone, but I wasn't playing it. I went all over the United States and hung out in the Sierra mountains in northern Mexico. I sat in with jazz bands and blues bands as I went around. There's nothing but blues bands in the Southwest — it was Southwestern, Ornette Coleman blues, all rural — backbeat, simple structures. But I was going through a whole lot of changes, so I wasn't really dealing with my music.

I didn't start doing my music until I came back to Chicago and started school. That's where I met Mitchell and Favors and (Anthony) Braxton: Wilson Junior College. I used to be into the Student Peace Union, that kind of thing, during those times. I've always been interested in politics, but now I'm more toward the left in a nationalistic way, black nationalism. But we, the Art Ensemble, we're not about politics.

John Litweiler: (To Roscoe Mitchell.) Were you a good singer at the age of eight?

Roscoe Mitchell: (Born Aug. 3, 1940, Chicago.) Certainly. I used to imitate all the dudes, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Louis Armstrong — I even imitated Mario Lanza.
Jarman: You can hear him singing in A Jackson in Your House (BYG 529. 302, a French LP).

Mitchell: I always wanted to be a musician, and I didn't want to be a singer. It wasn't rare to see jazz records and artists and stuff in the house when I was growing up. I was very young when I first heard Billie Holiday. My mother and uncle were into that kind of bag.

I played baritone sax in the high school dance band, and I didn't really get into the alto until my senior year. Then I played baritone and alto in an Army band. There were a couple of places in Germany where we could play. I played a rock gig during the Fasching season—it's like Halloween, except it goes a week or two. Everybody is drinking and partying in the streets. When I got out of the Army, in July of 1961, me and Joseph and (tenorist Henry) Threadgill and this fellow Richard Smith playing drums, Louis Hall, piano, we had a group for a long time. We were into Art Blakey charts and things like that. Wayne Shorter was my man — Joseph and them used to dig 'Trane, but I used to dig Wayne Shorter.

Litweiler: Joseph Jarman, what were you playing like then?

Jarman: Well, I was just trying to play changes. (Considerable laughter from Mitchell. Jarman and Malachi Favors.)

Mitchell: People didn't really listen to us much. Threadgill stopped playing for a while — oh, he played, but he was just playing in church. He was going through some changes. Favors and I were going to school together. I don't remember playing with another bass player, other than Maurice Chappelle and somebody else.

Favors: When I first heard you, you were sounding like Bird.

Jarman: Favors didn't even speak to us, because he was in the union.
Brother Malachi Favors: (Born Aug. 22, 1937.) Into being in this universe some 43,000 years ago. Moved around and then was ordered to this planet Earth by the higher forces, Allah De Lawd Thank You Jesus Good God a Mighty, through the Precious Channels of Brother Isaac and Sister Maggie Mayfield Favors; of 10.

Landed in Chicago by way of Lexington, Miss., Aug. 22—5:30 a.m. for the purpose of serving my duty as a Music Messenger... ALL PRAISE.

That announcement just sums everything up, and anyone who wants to do an article on me, that's it. I started playing music just after I finished high school. My people were very religious people, and they kept me in church most of the time. They were very strict. (Favors' father is a pastor.) I considered that a form of brainwashing, because they had been taught that certain great black music was evil, wrong. I never had any aspirations of becoming a musician. I remember once at church, I was about 15. I went up and touched a bass, and it was so hard to pull the strings down, I said, "Ohh, I'll never do this."

Music was just something that grabbed me all of a sudden. I started right off in music — I was playing professionally a month after I got my bass. When it grabbed me, I wasn't sincere — it was a thing to be seen; then it was, how much prestige can I get from the music? But then I got hooked, which was the primary object of the forces that grabbed me in the first place. Now I'm not up there playing for the girls.

I initially was inspired by the bebops — Charlie Parker, Oscar Pettiford, all those people. I got to know Wilbur Ware after I got started; he was my main man. He had it, it was just inspirational. The first time I went to his house, he had a drummer down there and he asked me to play with this drummer. This was a very good drummer, and I got up and I just was not into it at all. Those were very depressing days. I guess it's like that with every musician, you know, coming up, he doesn't think he ever will play.

(In 1958, Favors recorded an album with pianist Andrew Hill: they played together about two years. Favors supported himself by playing with popular Chicago pianists and organists over the years; he met Roscoe Mitchell in the autumn of 1961, and AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians mentor [Mulhal] Richard Abrams shortly thereafter. Throughout the early 1960s, Abrams' big Experimental Band, the source of the AACM by 1965, regularly included Jarman, Mitchell and Favors. By then Mitchell, with Favors and Jarman, had begun work with their own groups, and a "dust-biting" trumpeter, Lester Bowie from St. Louis, had settled on Chicago's North Side.)

Lester Bowie: (Born Oct. 11, 1941, Frederick, Md.) I first heard "Ambassador Satch" (Columbia CL-840, now out of print) I guess I was about 13. I read the story of how Louis Armstrong got with King Oliver, so I used to practice with my horn aiming out the window, hoping that Louis Armstrong would ride by and hear me and hire me to play with him. I turned professional when I was about 15. I had a band; it was a combination of maybe Dixieland and boogie-woogie and rhythm-and-blues types; the instrumentation was trumpet, alto, piano, sousaphone and an occasional drummer. We played a kind of square music there compared to bebop; a lot of real hepcats didn't dig us. I started hanging around this trumpet player named Bobby Danzier, who was big in St. Louis — he and Miles came up together, and he had the same kind of approach. But I still didn't want to be a musician — I'd say, I'm doing this because I'm young; when I'm older I'm going to be a lawyer or something.

I was playing all through school, all through service (with the Air Force Police), with bands, blues bands. The thing that really sent me out there was Kenny Durham and Hank Mobley, the Jazz Messengers record with "Soft Wind," "Prince Albert," "Minor's Holiday." Kenny Dorham sounded so hip, and Bobby Danzier years before had been telling me about having context in your playing, and being soulful. I decided then that when I got out I wouldn't do anything but just play.

[After the service, I] played around in St. Louis for another minute or so, and then went to school. Once I decided to deal music, that's about all I did. I don't think I ever bought a book. (Bowie spent a year at North Texas State, mostly performing throughout Texas with tenorists Fathead Newman, James Clay and roommate Billy Harper.) They play it up because it's the great institute of jazz, or some business. I ended up flunking out. After that, I figured, enough — the only good school for a musician is the road.

(Bowie traveled the Midwest with a blues backup band.) We ended up getting stranded in Denver. We were supposed to work for Solomon Burke — anyway, we worked two weeks at this club, and then the union man came. You know how the unions are, like gangsters. Our cards weren't that straight, so we had to give him some money. Then he said, ‘Be out of town by the time sunrise comes,' so I went to California. Me and altoist Oliver Lake and drummer Philip Wilson (both St. Louis contemporaries of Bowie) hung out for a long time in Los Angeles.

I met Fonty (popular singer Fontella Bass, now Mrs. Bowie) while I was with Oliver Sain, a St. Louis bandleader-producer. I started directing her music, I think it must have been late '65, then we moved to Chicago. (A friend took him to an Abrams rehearsal in June 1966.) I felt right immediately. Kind of like being at home. Richard had me take a solo, and as soon as we finished everybody came over, Roscoe and Joseph gave me their phone numbers right away, and then that same night Roscoe called amd wanted me to do a concert with him. We started rehearsing the next day.

The years 1966 and '67 were crucial to these players. By fall 1966 Bowie's partner, Philip Wilson, had joined the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble and proved to be the catalyst in the development of a highly sophisticated group identity. Mitchell had been experimenting with bells, whistles, harmonicas and gourds as rhythmic and primarily sonoric effects in his music. Wilson's dynamic and rhythmic sensitivity, his graceful skill and volatility, made him the perfect accompanist; during that period he was surely the leading drummer in the New Music. Bowie and Favors were inspired to add "little instruments" to their collections. The astonishing variations of themes, structures, sounds and contexts conceived by Mitchell in this period remain a landmark achievement.

Wilson participated in the Mitchell group’s visuals. For example, one concert opened with a player, accompanied by Favors' banjo, fox-trotting with a huge Raggedy Ann doll, followed by an angry, shotgun-toting Wilson. Another found a Wilson mallet applied to cymbals, snares and Favors' head, until the bassist collapsed in a mock faint.

Two LPs made a year apart without Wilson demonstrate how the Mitchell group's music grew during Wilson's nine-month tenure. The exploratory, intense Sound (Delmark 9408) is a bit cautious with the unconventional instruments, while Lester Bowie—Numbers 1 & 2 (Nessa 1) from August 1967 was confident in its highly detailed group improvisation structures and by now beautifully conceived flow of sound. But a month earlier Wilson had abandoned jazz almost completely; since then he has had a successful career in rock 'n' roll.

Bowie: When you take an important part out, the music has to make compensations. It was more of a challenge without him. In the next concert we had a bit where the telephone rang and we answered and said. "Philip's not here." It was a drag to lose him, but things still go on. We added a lot; the instruments started building up. We used to have just a little bit, and now we have a whole housefull.

Mitchell: I felt that the music was in a very sensitive period, and most of the drummers I was digging just weren't melodic enough to be dealing what we were dealing.

(There were no limitations to the group's scope. One performance might present free ensemble improvisation, shifting within subtly structured areas, such as "Number 1"; the next might include a series of songs, usually Mitchell's: vaguely Mingus-like lines, a rock piece, a samba, a bop line, a Favors banjo piece, "Muskrat Ramble.")

Bowie: With Roscoe. there was no limitation about what you could deal from. You wouldn't have to play something melodic all the time, or something fast all the time. It was a combination of any kind of way you could do it. It was the only group I had seen that I could do anything I wanted without feeling self-conscious.

Jarman had acquired a youthful quartet (Christopher Gaddy, piano; Charles Clark, bass; Thurman Barker, drums) which had achieved a range of conscious romanticism quite unique and marvelous in free jazz, based in large degree on Gaddy's original harmonic relationships. Jarman's personal accomplishments were twofold: as composer he scored successfully, brilliantly in an extended-work idiom (most notably in Causes II and Winter Playground 1965 with a large group — among free jazzmen only Ornette Coleman has approached Jarman's success within near-classical forms), and as alto saxophonist he offered an idealized style of astonishing virtuosity, lyric sensitivity and often expressive wit. Like Mitchell, Jarman had acquired "little instruments," though Jarman's presentation was simpler and more formularized. Throughout the years there were flamboyant multi-media Jarman works, with dancers, poets, actors, even films.

In summer 1967 Gaddy was hospitalized for a heart ailment, and a doctor warned him against "music and other strenuous exercise." Gaddy died the following March. The prodigious Charles Clark was a near virtuoso, basically bearing Mingus' principles of creation into free jazz; as Terry Martin wrote: "His solos... can also attain an almost unequalled emotional intensity for this instrument." My own introduction to the variety and wonder of Chicago Civic Symphony immediately recall that awe. He left Jarman in late 1968 to work with Chicago's Civic Symphony. His April 1969 death was a shocking blow. Clark was only 24. The Chicago Civic Symphony immediately inaugurated a Charles Clark Memorial Scholarship for young musicians.

By autumn 1968 the Roscoe Mitchell Art Ensemble was in a state of musical and professional flux. Jarman joined at this time.

Jarman: When Christopher and Charles vanished. I went through a very emotional thing. It really wiped me away, and it was a very heavy emotional thing. I mean, I felt and they felt that many of our tenets were common about what music is; they were the only musicians around. Although Thurman (Barker) was still on the scene, we weren't strong enough to make a thing, because of what we emotionally and psychologically put into the music with Christopher and Charles. So Lester and Malachi and Roscoe saw the state I was in. and they knew I was going to just flip on out, so they hit on me to play a concert. I played it, and it was very good, so then there was another concert and a couple other concerts. Finally we realized that we all had this vital thing in common.

Litweiler: Why did the musicians move to France?

Mitchell: We always felt we wanted to spread the music out. I mean, me myself; I don't want to sit in one place all the time. You can call it a missionary thing, if you want.

Favors: I went because the group went. I really didn't want to go, but I wanted to stay with the Art Ensemble. I was overruled. I felt that it might have been a little more difficult but that we could have made it here. Going to Europe still is not a gas to me.

Bowie: We were always interested in reaching out to more and more people, getting the AACM's name out there. For years before, we had traveled more than anyone else here (in their Chicago years they worked briefly in New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Toronto. St. Louis). The only other place to go was to Europe. We had to live, and we wanted to live by playing music. We weren't working that much around here.

We just left. We worked maybe the second day we were there, at a place called the Lucienaire, a small theater. Immediately we got a lot of attention — like, L'Express, that's like Time magazine, and Paris-Match, all the papers were immediately interested. The next week we did a recording. We used the Lucienaire for a base about three weeks, maybe, and the people would come from all over. Some would say, "Come to here and do a concert," and we'd go there and return to the Lucienaire. We dealt from there.

We did 35 concerts in 1970 for the French Ministry of Culture. Every little town, could be a town of 50,000 people, they've got a big opera house somewhere where they bring in different arts, and they were interested in our music, along with symphony orchestras, ballets, anything. And black music, too. France is just about the most advanced country for the music that I can think of.

Jarman: One of the important things the European experience did was to open my eyes up to a broader world. Being exposed to and in the midst of other cultures and other thoughts and other musics allowed a perspective on myself and my society that I never would have realised before. Meeting, for example, African musicians and their attitudes about music.

Bowie: We played all over Europe. Our situation in Europe was completely unique among groups; the way we carried ourselves, the way we conducted our business. Most cats were in the regular jazz thing: you come, get a hotel room, and blah blah blah. But we had children, a dog; we lived in the country. It was unusual because most of the jazz cats were sitting around Paris, and we had a nice big estate, cherry trees and apple trees, ha... I was leading up to how we traveled: we had equipment; as we traveled, instead of squandering our money, we would collectively get together and buy things that the group needed— instruments and equipment. We had a Volkswagen, and we bought two more trucks over there, and this let us be mobile. No other group over there had any kind of mobility. We could travel anywhere, and this is mostly, I think, the reason we were so successful. We could be hired for Germany; all we had to do was pack and come over, whereas to a lot of groups it would have meant trains and planes. We spent the whole summer of 1970 just traveling. We did radio and TV concerts all over.

Radio and TV over there is all state-owned, so there was always somebody who worked on the station and could get us a job doing a program. In France alone we did about six TV shows and about six or eight radio concerts. Some were live, like from Chateauvallon; it was an arts festival, but the show was just us. They take the music much more seriously than they do over here.

Jarman: Of course, you know how Don Moye got with the group.

Favors: One Saturday night we were doing a gig at the American Center for Students in Arts in Paris. I saw this cat with two conga drums, and I said, "This cat's from Africa" — the African cats were on opposite us, you know. So he came over and just set his drums up. I said, "Somebody bring me a soda" — he said, "Yeah, bring me one, too." Then we heard him play, and we said, "Hey, this cat's bad, ain't he." Then he was playing with Steve Lacy, and I went down and saw him playing trap drums.

Don Moye: (Born May 23, 1946, Rochester, M.Y.) I was going to Wayne State University in Detroit, '66, '65.I was playing with Detroit Free Jazz; we were just young guys. I took some percussion classes, but I wasn't a music major. Those music schools, whew. I used to go over there, and nobody even looked like they were into anything. I couldn't even find anybody to play with, hardly, in that music department. But there were plenty musicians around Detroit.

I used to go over to (trumpeter) Charles Moore's house, he used to show me a whole lot of stuff. Everybody used to go over there to see what was happening. I met Jarman in Detroit, at the Artists' Workshop. I also worked on Guerilla (published by Artist Workshop Affiliates) — I was circulation manager on that. That was a good magazine. (Moye was in the Artists' Workshop the evening of the famous mass arrests.) Everybody who got took in spent their little time in jail. Just a plumb outrageous number. 54 or 60. They just wanted to put John Sinclair out of the picture... I was kind of disillusioned with the Detroit situation, because the whole musical direction was changing. They were going more heavily into the rock thing. By that time Charles Moore and all the cats had disappeared, so there really wasn't anybody on the scene for inspiration.

We (Detroit Free Jazz, a quartet) just went out to Europe — we got it together when we got there. We went to Copenhagen first; we got our first gig in Switzerland. We arrived in May '68, and by June we were playing all over... A gig fell through in Milano, Italy, so we went to Yugoslavia to see what was happening. We were musicians, so they probably figured we were pretty harmless. But we knew they were following us the whole time. At the end, the sequence of events was, I recognized this cat on numerous occasions.

Litweiler: He never spoke to you?

Moye: Naw, there wasn't too much to say. If his job is to follow you. he's going to follow you. They watch Americans. Plus, it was the ninth Annual Communist Convention or something — all these big, wheels in town. There were all these police and soldiers around everywhere. (This was in the winter of 1968-'69.) It was in Tangiers that we got tired of cops, again. Randy Weston got us out of the country. The Moroccan cats, they're mean ones, and if they want to hold you. they'll just hold you. We were all on the boat when they picked one of the cats and said, "No, you can't go." They put him right back on shore. Randy Weston went to these heads of, ah, they were high up in the structure, and had them put him back on the boat. It was weird.

(Before meeting the Art Ensemble in Paris, Moye worked with Steve Lacy in Rome.)

Move: He's one of those prolific cats. When he was in Italy, he was doing a lot of writing — and a lot of starving, I imagine. We didn't work but three concerts in four months, and he was there two years before that ... I was over there two years and 11 months.

Bowie: We had one session where we called in the strings from the Paris Opera. Roscoe had written the string music. They were used to playing the regular whole notes and stuff. They got there and could not play it. We had to cancel that session. Then we got the string players from the Paris  Conservatory. Well, they didn't smoke it, but they played it. They were younger; the avant-garde string players, you know. That was really a funny day when those cats couldn't play that music.

(The December 1969  Baden-Baden Free Jazz Meeting found Bowie, Jarman, Mitchell and Chicago drummer Steve McCall joining a selected group of expatriate and European musicians to record new music for television.)

Jarman: Both Mitchell and I took compositions to the Baden-Baden recording. They required the musicians to use some musical skills, you know — like reading notes off the page. And these great European musicians, they say, "Oh, that's difficult," so we couldn't deal our compositions. We tried to rehearse, and they were not capable of reading the music. We just put it in our briefcases until we could get to Chicago and struggle through it with the AACM big band.

There ain't no European jazz musicians, unfortunately. If you check their music and check them, you'll find their roots are right here. You'll find they're copying the best black styles they can. They can get to certain levels of things, as far as mechanics are concerned, but the innate core is beyond them, and they never will be able to grasp it. Unfortunately. They may be able to get the meat, but not the bone the meat is on. Black music just contains properties that their heritage and culture does not have!

Favors: People over there beat us out of all our money; they haven't paid us yet for what we've done. Why do you think we're poor now? If you make movies and records, you should have money. These people haven't even paid us our royalties. We're members of this organization culled SACEM — it handles all the affairs of artists, period. It's supposed to be much better than BMI; in fact, Johnny Griffin swears by it. SACEM tells us, "Well, you'll get your money here." then they say. "Well, the money is here," but we never get it. There's always a later date. It's a worldwide organization; they have a branch here, but this branch tells us that we have to collect from Paris. We had a contract with BYG. they were supposed to buy us a Volkswagen bus. We never got that.

Jarman: Racism in Europe is just as bad as it is here.

Bowie: Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. That is the home; the original racists came from Europe. My personal feeling is that the reason more Europeans are open to black music is that they don't have that large black population to contend with. Art is enlightenment for people. In the States, you have millions of blacks, so the Man isn't too interested in promoting black art because he's got that lower-class population that may learn something. In Europe they don't have any fear of anything like that.

Favors: In France they don't have black people to worry about like they do here. Consequently they go all out. They sent me a statement — I'm not even a citizen — asking me if I needed any assistance. That statement would have given me the right to go to a doctor and everything else — that's right! And over here they're just killing people about this little money they're giving them: it's a big thing because you're getting a few pennies from the government, and it's only because you're black. If they didn't have black people, they wouldn't even think about the relief.

Jarman: The music doesn't have any association with the interpretations some writers put on it. What's the spirit of that to you when you see us painting our faces? A lot of people like to suggest this has to do with a militant attitude, when in fact it's a tribal attitude. The mask, in African culture, functions to alleviate human beings so the spiritual aspects of things can come through. When people check this out, they have a real warm feeling. Then this other person comes and tells them. "Well, it's about war paint, it's not a love feeling," and they get these contradictory vibrations.

Litweiler: Do the musicians feel better about playing back home?

Mitchell: We're still not getting our asking price. I mean, we might get one gig, but that means we turned down about six. So on the average, we're really not getting anything. We don't produce concerts ourselves any more, except with the AACM. We want money, and we're willing to negotiate. We want you to print: A fair amount of money for the Art Ensemble, you dig? Stop fooling yourself, get us some money.

Favors: I mean, what did they have coming down to Bloomington, Ind., after us? Nitty Gritty Dirt Band — $3,000, or more than that, you know.

Jarman: We got that award from DownBeat, and somebody told us we'd get a lot of gigs that way. We had to laugh about that.

Bowie: We've just received a grant from the Missouri Arts Council to perform a series of concerts in Missouri, along with other groups from BAG (the St. Louis Black Artists Group). They come five concerts in a series, and we're attempting to be funded for about three more series. Illinois has something like that here, but this is a much bigger place, and you've got much more happening, more graft and things. The Art Ensemble is the outside element of BAG.

BAG was formed by cats who grew up together, Oliver Lake, (drummer) Jerome-Harris Jr., (altoist) Julius Hemphill. We're kind of proud of that, because we've got our own building, all that business, and the bebop cats never achieved that; they have to play in taverns and what have you. BAG's inspiration was the AACM; they've achieved some things that the AACM hasn't achieved merely because it's a smaller place; it's easier to break through.

Jarman: There's a magazine that the AACM is going to publish. This is just my opinion, you know — for what I see as part of my contribution to the Art Ensemble of Chicago is that we are becoming interested in speaking of the depths of the music, the conditions of our lives — I mean, we are hungry, poor, we need money to survive, all this, and people should know that instead of trying to politicize our work, instead of trying to construct moralistic or movement values off of what we're dealing, that it should be looked at from an internal perspective.

Litweiler: Would something like a Ministry of Culture and the French Culture Houses work here?

Mitchell: They have them, but it's not for black people. A lot of rich communities in America have the facilities for people in the community — you see them all the time. The thing about Lincoln Center [in Chicago] was that was in the black community. I remember Lincoln Center from back when I was going to high school.

(Now razed, Lincoln Center was the drafty old settlement house where the AACM gave concerts throughout the 1960s.)
Litweiler: Do you feel that the center, if it were French, would have been government-supported?

Mitchell: Oh, yes. But it wouldn't be like that, it would be a brand-new building. Don't think for a minute that the States are a slouch and don't have anything happening. I think they do a bit more in St. Louis than they do in Chicago. The Missouri Council of the Arts, yeah. The experience I've had with that is that the Council will start off doing like this here [raises his hand|. and then it goes right on downhill. But they do give them something. They paid for this building BAG has for a year or so. A lot of things are more available there that the musicians here have to seek for themselves.

Jarman: The writers had a great deal to do with destroying the reality of the music when they started giving it labels and titles. A lot of musicians think that free jazz means you just ... OK, somebody gave me this instrument, but I'm a free-jazz player, see, so it's true and proper that this is the music [he strums a lute at random |. That kind of view is prevalent, there's lots of people who think that even in 1971.

Exhausted from the wars of getting their music before the public, the Art Ensemble has settled down for the time being. Bowie and his family live in a suburb in St. Louis; the other four live in an 1892 townhouse, one of Chicago's first, with a basement full of trunks and equipment and a whole floor, the kitchen excepted, set up with musical instruments. In back sit two German Ford trucks, both out of commission; parts are unavailable here. In its homeland, the Art Ensemble, since April 1971, has presented concerts in Lenox, Mass.; Bloomington. Ind.; and Chicago. That's all.

As individuals, the five have performed throughout the summer and fall with the BAG band in St. Louis (including a television show) and the AACM big band in Chicago. The situation is sorrowful. Judging from recordings, the early potential of a Jarman-Mitchell-Bowie-Favors union has recurringly been fulfilled. People in Sorrow (Nessa 3), their 1969 French prize-winning work, and Les Stances a Sophie (Nessa 4), a French film soundtrack, are now available in the U.S.; certain specialty stores import the somewhat excellent BYG recordings; one American LP, Phase One, has been issued in France.

It is redundant to point out that these men are among the small handful of seminal musicians to appear in the post-Ornette Coleman era of jazz. Their music, based on full use of as much sonoric variation as possible within essentially melodic and usually complex structures, still seems the way of the future. The Art Ensemble is an entity of five diverse minds directed toward realizing, in instrumental interplay, the only true ensemble music in many years, and perhaps the most challenging ensemble music in all of jazz.

The Art Ensemble needs to perform, on the same basis that other jazz groups perform; its requests are not unreasonable. The fact that they are not able to do so is a crime.”

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Basin Street Blues

Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Zev Feldman assembled a three-LP set of primarily previously unreleased material by saxophonist-flutist Eric Dolphy titled “Musical Prophet.” That Resonance release, like many he’s done for the imprint, took years to put together, after Feldman learned of studio tapes that had been hidden away for more than a half-century.

That limited vinyl edition immediately sold out in stores, but the Dolphy collection is set to be released to a much bigger audience as a three-CD set on Jan. 25. Planned for the launch are live events celebrating Dolphy’s legacy at Largo in L.A. on Jan. 23 and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on Jan. 25.”
- Variety, January 7, 2019

Independent Jazz record producers such as Milt Gabler [Commodore], Teddy Reig [Savoy], Morris Levy [Roulette], Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff [Blue Note], Bob Weinstock [Prestige] Orrin Keepnews [Riverside], Richard Bock [Pacific Jazz] and Lester Koenig [Contemporary] must be grinning from ear-to-ear in Independent Jazz Record Producers Heaven at the quality of the music that George Klabin, Zev Feldman and the gang at Resonance Records are putting out these days.

And it’s not just what they are putting out Jazz-wise that is so terrific, but the spare-no-expense style in which this great music is packaged is also something that has these former friends of Jazz recordings no doubt shaking their heads in admiration. Would that it were that they could have brought to bear such resources to put out such artfully created and beautifully encased recordings.

Back-in-the-day [post World War II era, 1945-1965], the only independent Jazz record producer who had the resources to approach putting out stuff in the manner in which Resonance does today was Norman Granz at EmArcy,Clef and Norgran all of which he later collected under the Verve rubric.

[Actually, Norman did tread this path with his limited edition, multi disc, extended 78 rpm set The Jazz Scene as well as multiple recordings by selected artists such as the legendary Art Tatum, but these were usually issued as individual volumes and only later collected into boxed set with elaborate annotations and graphics when this music was released on CD].

Perhaps Norman might have done more elaborate presentations if he had not been so caught up in domestic and international tours of his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, personally managing the careers of such Jazz luminaries as Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson and recording prominent Jazz musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and Lionel Hampton, among many, many others on an almost weekly basis in Los Angeles and New York studios.

Incidentally, through his Rising Jazz Stars Foundation, George Klabin also acts as an impresario for many younger Jazz musicians and you can learn more about that organization’s activities and function by reading this interview with him.

This nostalgic trip down a memory lane of independent Jazz record production leads me to wonder what the earlier lions in this field would have thought of the Resonance teams latest offering - Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions - which is due out on January 25, 2019 as a deluxe 3CD set and as a digital edition.

Hyperbole is always a danger when describing a Resonance Records finished product but, I ask you, how can you over exaggerate when the media release from Ann Braithwaite at Braithwaite and Katz Communications begins with this description of the new 3CD Dolphy set?

First official release of previously-unissued ERIC DOLPHY studio recordings in over 30 years,including 85-minutes never before released.

Includes an exhaustive 100-page book with rare photos by Chuck Stewart, Jean-Pierre Leloir, Val Wilmer and others; essays by jazz author/scholar Robin D.G. Kelley, Douglas label manager Michael Lemesre, Japanese Dolphy scholar Masakazu Sato, and co-producers Zev Feldman and James Newton.

Plus words by John Coltrane McCoy Tyner Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus and interviews with jazz icons Sonny Rollins, Sonny Simmons, Richard Davis, Henry Threadgill, Nicole Mitchell, Steve Coleman, David Murray, Bill Laswell, Oliver Lake, Han Bennink, Joe Chambers, Dave
Liebman and Marty Ehrlich.

All this before you’ve even taken the shrink-wrap of the artfully illustrated package that contains the CDs!

Writing in the January 2019 edition of Downbeat, Phillip Lutz observed of Dolphy:

“... he was working at a time when cultural purists often prevailed over pluralists, and, among too many critics and club owners, his expansive aesthetic marked him as an unwelcome outlier. ...

If he were alive, Dolphy might very well be surprised at all the attention being lavished on him, given the difficulty parts of the jazz establishment had in understanding him during his lifetime. That failure reveals itself in the elementary nature ot the questions the late critic Leonard Feather asked of Dolphy in an undated interview, an audio excerpt of which appears at, a website operated by neuroscientist Alan Saul.

Feather's questions largely revolve around the move away from improvisation based strictly on harmonic progressions. Feather, with his mellifluous British intonation, asks: "If your foundation is not a chord sequence, which is what the traditional basis of jazz was, then what is the foundation?"

Dolphy, in earthier tones, replies: "Some things you play are not based on chords, they're based on freedom of sound. You start with one line and you keep inventing as you go along."

The gap in perspective [between Feather and Dolphy] remains wide throughout the excerpt, with little apparent prospect for a narrowing. Though Dolphy always showed great respect for all jazz traditions — the anthropomorphic cries he wrung from his horns consciously harked back to the early days of Jaz, in New Orleans — those who knew him said he was too iconoclastic to operate within the straight and narrow strictures of jazz convention.

"He was constantly bending," Juanita Smith [a close friend] said. "That's what got him into so much difficulty. You upset the natural thing, people get upset."

These days, when so much of Dolphy's vocabulary has been absorbed into the jazz lexicon, it seems hard to grasp what the upset was all about.”

Ironically, many of the “cultural purists” who “prevailed” [against Dolphy’s music] were the very same critics who twenty years earlier had supported the beboppers in their “revolt” against the [their term] “moldy figs” [collectively, those who preferred the earlier Jazz styles from New Orleans and Chicago and the Swing era big bands].

In a sense, you had to be there [as I was] to understand that things were simply happening too quickly for these “cultural purists” to understand. This was the same era that found Miles Davis recording his 1956 Bebop classic Round Midnight and then in 1959 renouncing chord changes for modes in Kind of Blue and then from 1965-1970 transitioning to Jazz-Rock fusion that ultimately coalesced with the issuance of Bitches Brew in 1970.

Stylistically, too much was happening too fast during the period from 1955-1965 for anyone in the Jazz World to keep up with so what generally happens in the face of rapid change is that resistance to the new - and there was a lot of it - formed the initial or default reaction of the Jazz cognoscenti.

It didn’t help, too, that the freer forms of Jazz that were coming into existence in the early 1960s when Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet was recorded often disdained their audiences when its musicians turned their backs on them in Jazz clubs, failed to communicating with them by introducing the members of the band or offering even the most rudimentary explanation of what was going on in the “new” music and often played their avant garde renditions at decibel levels that were piercing in the extreme.

So, one of the value of reissuing Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions is to help Jazz fans understand the value of what may have been missed in all the frency that greeted the New Jazz Movement when it was first introduced on the scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

What I found most striking about the music on the 3 CDs is how formative it sounds. These were young musicians who were all very impressionable and malleable and who, developmentally, were in the early years of learning their craft.

They were experimenting, shaping and molding their improvisations; trying things out; learning by doing.

Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, for example, is playing single note phrasing and not the multi-note runs that he exhibited in his later solos.

Trumpeter Woody Shaw exhibits a heavy Freddie Hubbard influence in his solos, especially with regard to the similarity in tone.

Clifford Jordan, who had established himself as a tenor saxophonist is still very tentative in his new found involvement with the soprano saxophone.

Compositionally, Eric, too, was exploring and investigating new forms that would allow for greater expression of tonality and texture.

Here’s more information about the 3 CD Resonance records Dolphy release from Ann Braithwaite’s media guide.

“Los Angeles, CA – August 2018 – Resonance Records is proud to announce the first official previously-unissued studio recordings of Eric Dolphy in over 30 years, including 85-minutes of never before released material. Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions is being released in partnership with the Eric Dolphy Trust and the Alan Douglas Estate with remastered high-resolution monaural audio transferred directly from the original tapes.

Captured after leaving Prestige/New Jazz Records, and just before recording the timeless classic Out to Lunch! album, Musical Prophet is a 3LP/3CD set that contains the under-appreciated masterpieces Conversations and Iron Man recorded in New York City on July 1 and 3, 1963. Originally produced by Alan Douglas — most well-known for his association with Jimi Hendrix, but who also produced classic jazz albums such as Money Jungle with Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach — the tapes had been stored in a suitcase with Dolphy’s personal belongings and given to Dolphy’s close friends Hale and Juanita Smith just before he embarked on his fateful European trip in 1964. Years later the contents of the suitcase were given to flutist/educator James Newton, who had developed a close relationship with his mentor Hale Smith and Hale’s wife Juanita in the late 1970s. Then in 2015, Newton connected with Zev Feldman at Resonance and they began working in conjunction with the Eric Dolphy Trust in Los Angeles on this definitive edition of Dolphy’s 1963 New York studio sessions. These tapes were recorded in mono, unlike the stereo versions that were used for the original studio albums and are the only known master sources in existence.


The LP/CD packages are beautifully designed by longtime Resonance designer Burton Yount and include exhaustive booklets replete with rare and never-before-published photos (several of which are in color!) by Chuck Stewart, Jean-Pierre Leloir, Val Wilmer, Hans Harzheim, Lennart Steen, Roger Marshutz and many others, plus reproductions of the original album covers for Conversations and Iron Man. The five essays cover different aspects of Eric Dolphy and this music, starting with co-producers Zev Feldman and James Newton’s accounts of how this album came to be and what Dolphy’s music means to this world. Newton says in his essay, “Eric Dolphy taught us to listen much more carefully to voices from all around the world, but never to forget that the substantially personal and complex feelings within field hollers remained in the mix.” Jazz scholar and author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, Robin D.G. Kelley, gives us the full historical context of these recordings and Dolphy in 1963. Japanese Dolphy scholar Masakazu Sato and Douglas label manager Michael Lemesregive us accounts of Dolphy’s impact in Japan and of producer Alan Douglas’ role in these recordings and relationship with Dolphy.

We’ve gathered a large congregation of voices to reflect, remember and reexamine the person, the music and the legacy of Eric Dolphy. The saxophone colossus himself, Sonny Rollins, recounted first meeting Dolphy when he asked to sit in with Max Roach’s band. Roach liked to embarrass young musicians who asked to sit in by playing a tune at an extremely fast tempo and running them off the stage. Of course, Dolphy was no average musician and he hung in there the whole way through the tune. From that point forward, Rollins knew Dolphy was a serious musician to be reckoned with. The sole living members of the band interviewed for this release, saxophonist Sonny Simmons and Richard Davis, remember Dolphy as being “a Saint” and “angelic” respectively. Close family friend Juanita Smith gives a detailed account of the time she and her husband, Hale Smith, spent with Eric, including the anecdote about how Eric got the enigmatic bump on his head that we see so clearly in photographs from his later years (including our Chuck Stewart photo on the album cover).

The words and thoughts of no less than 17 musicians – from jazz legend John Coltrane to the Pulitzer prize-winning saxophonist/flutist Henry Threadgill – are represented in this deluxe tribute to Eric Dolphy and this archival discovery, and paint a complex portrait of this heralded, loved and misunderstood artist. Acclaimed flutist Nicole Mitchell says, “I don’t know if there’s a better way to start listening to someone improvising on the flute than to hear Eric Dolphy . . . He really was — bar none — one of the greatest flute players of his time, and of any time before him.” Award-winning saxophonist Steve Coleman stated bluntly about Dolphy, “He’s a virtuoso. There’s nothing else to say about that. It’s amazing that he could get that kind of fluency on different instruments. He’s the first guy I heard to play the shit out of the bass clarinet, the saxophone and the flute.”

LP/CD 1 — Conversations
1. Jitterbug Waltz (7:18)
2. Music Matador (9:37)
3. Love Me (3:22)
4. Alone Together (13:36)
5. Muses for Richard Davis (Previously Unissued 1) (7:39)
6. Muses for Richard Davis (Previously Unissued 2) (8:31)

LP/CD 2 — Iron Man
1. Iron Man (9:14)
2. Mandrake (4:47)
3. Come Sunday (6:28)
4. Burning Spear (11:59)
5. Ode to Charlie Parker (8:04)
6. A Personal Statement (Bonus Track) (15:02) *

LP/CD 3 — Previously Unissued Studio Recordings
1. Music Matador (Alternate Take) (8:05)
2. Love Me (Alternate Take 1) (2:27)
3. Love Me (Alternate Take 2) (3:43)
4. Alone Together (Alternate Take) (12:14)
5. Jitterbug Waltz (Alternate Take) (9:36)
6. Mandrake (Alternate Take) (6:48)
7. Burning Spear (Alternate Take) (10:31)

Eric Dolphy – alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet
William “Prince” Lasha – flute
Huey “Sonny” Simmons – alto saxophone
Clifford Jordan – soprano saxophone
Woody Shaw – trumpet
Garvin Bushell – bassoon
Bobby Hutcherson – vibes
Richard Davis – bass
Eddie Kahn – bass
J.C. Moses – drums
Charles Moffett – drums

Recorded on July 1 & 3, 1963 at Music Maker’s Studios in New York City.
*Bonus Track: “A Personal Statement” is a Bob James composition that was recorded at WUOM studios in Ann Arbor, MI on March 2, 1964 with Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flute), Bob James (piano), Ron Brooks (bass), Robert Pozar (percussion) and David Schwartz (vocals).

Pre-Order Musical Prophet on iTunes and receive 3 tracks instantly:
"Music Matador (Alternate Take}": 'Mandrake (Alternate Take)!! and "Muses for Richard Davis (Previously Unissued 1).”

For order information please go to

Here is the complete text of Phillip Lutz’s Eric Dolphy: ‘Prophet’ of Freedom from the January 2019 edition of Downbeat -

And here is the complete article on the set from Phillip Lutz’s Eric Dolphy: The ‘Prophet’ of Freedom Downbeat article.

“Whether he was wielding his alto saxophone, flute or bass clarinet, Eric Dolphy was a godsend to the cadre of musicians who were on a mission to expand the language of jazz.

“He was like an angel,” Richard Davis, Dolphy’s longtime bassist, said in October. “He was my answer to wanting to play a certain way—free.” In his short life—Dolphy died in 1964 at age 36—he embraced chromatic post-bop, contemporary classical and (what later would be called) world music on their own terms. At the same time, he was moving toward a synthesis of those forms, presaging the modern global sensibility.

But he was working at a time when cultural purists often prevailed over pluralists, and, among too many critics and club owners, his expansive aesthetic marked him as an unwelcome outlier. Struggling to find work as a leader, the reedist decided that after a 1964 tour accompanying bassist Charles Mingus, he would remain in Europe. Dolphy settled in Berlin, where his diabetes went untreated, leading to his tragic death on June 29.
“When I heard it, I didn’t want to believe it,” said Davis, 88.

That sense of denial summed up the reaction of others close to Dolphy—not least his composition mentor, Hale Smith (1925–2009), and Smith’s wife, Juanita. Smith, 91, explained that the pain was so deep that, for many years, her husband refrained from digging into the boxes Dolphy had left at their Long Island home before the saxophonist departed for what would be his final tour.

“It was sort of a raw thing,” she said.

But finally, in 1978, the Smiths contacted flutist and scholar James Newton, who flew out from California to take a look. What he found was a multitude of scores and recordings, many ready to be mined. Nine years later, he produced Other Aspects (Blue Note), a 41-minute, five-track collection that, by his own account, was put together hurriedly to benefit Dolphy’s parents.

After that, Newton returned the material he had used to the Smiths’ home, where it remained until Hale’s death, when Newton became custodian of the entire cache. At that point, he undertook a more intensive exploration of the music, gradually coming to understand that it filled out the picture of a genius’ life cut short. When Resonance Records got wind of the tapes and proposed a project, Newton was game.

“I started to think that this music had to come out,” he said.

The result is Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions. From seven-and-a-half hours of tapes, Newton, working with Resonance Co-President Zev Feldman at the label’s studio in Beverly Hills, culled 74 minutes of music, which had been released in the ’60s as the albums Conversations and Iron Man, plus 85 minutes of previously unreleased material. Co-produced by Newton and Feldman, the collection, which includes extensive liner notes and photos, will be available in a limited-edition three-LP version (out Nov. 23 for Record Store Day’s Black Friday event). There also will be a three-CD version and a digital edition (both out Jan. 25).

By the time Dolphy went into the studio for these sessions — on July 1 and 3, 1963 — he had recorded with dozens of artists. Prominent among them was John Coltrane. Dolphy spent long hours practicing with Coltrane in the latter’s home in St. Albans, Queens, according to bassist Reggie Workman, who worked with both musicians on Impulse classics like Africa/Brass and Live! At The Village Vanguard.
“They were very close,” he said. “They respected one another highly.”

On the bandstand or in the studio, Workman recalled, the two operated as equals. No matter what Coltrane’s imagination yielded, he said, “Eric would step forward and produce something of the same nature. He always held his own. John expected you to believe in the music and know the terrain, and Eric was happy to be part of it. He always brought his own voice to the music.”

That voice, using a full range of instruments to express limitless emotion, was amply expressed as well with Mingus. The two musicians’ relationship, which began in Dolphy’s native Los Angeles, had reached an early peak with albums like Mingus At Antibes (Atlantic) and The Complete Town Hall Concert (Blue Note). Despite its ups and downs, the musical bond was so strong that Mingus repeatedly hired Dolphy, right up until his death.

While his reputation as a sideman grew, Dolphy built his own catalog as a leader. By the early ’60s, it already included two records of live performances at the Five Spot and three studio gems on Prestige’s New Jazz imprint: Outward Bound, Out There and Far Cry — the last recorded on Dec. 21, 1960, the same day he laid down tracks for Ornette Coleman’s singular Free Jazz (Atlantic).

Even as the New Jazz dates employed conventional song structures, they hinted at a subversive streak. By 1963, that streak had become more pronounced, and clearer still on 1964’s Out To Lunch!, recorded with Davis, Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone) and Tony Williams (drums). Posthumously released, that album widely is considered Dolphy’s most definitive; the new collection, with Hutcherson and Davis among the personnel, documents a moment of transition leading to it.

“You’re hearing changes, you’re hearing swing, but you’re also hearing this approach that really gives you a lot of room to express who you are as an individual,” Newton said.

For Dolphy — who was voted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame by readers in 1964 — individual expression was paramount. Offstage, Smith said, he was an omnivorous consumer of knowledge and an assertive participant in seminar-like sessions her husband and Dolphy held in the Smiths’ residences, first in Harlem’s Flanders Hotel and, later, in their Long Island home. Onstage, Davis recalled, Dolphy rarely offered direction, preferring to give musicians full rein to shape their sound.

“There was never any discussion of the music,” he said. “We just played.”

That kind of trust, Davis said, reflected a closeness forged in the crucible of New York — at the Five Spot in a pressurized two-week residency, at Philharmonic Hall performing Gunther Schuller’s “Journey Into Jazz” under Leonard Bernstein’s watchful eye, at Town Hall contributing music between poet Ree Dragonette’s searing disquisitions on race. All of which proved powerful bonding agents.

In the 1963 sessions, that bond also was a morale-booster as Dolphy and Davis squeezed into a single day a series of sonorous duos built on a diverse set of vehicles: the Arthur Schwartz-Howard Dietz ballad “Alone Together,” Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” and, in two previously unreleased takes, Roland Hanna’s elegiac “Muses For Richard Davis.”

Though Dolphy was no stranger to duos with bassists — two duos with Ron Carter, for example, appear on an acetate disc produced at Esoteric Sound Studios — the interplay in the ’63 sessions has a quality of restraint that reflects a level of intimacy with Davis. The restraint is conspicuously unforced, particularly when Davis’ bow meets Dolphy’s bass clarinet — prompting the bassist, when asked what most stands out about the sessions 55 years after the fact, to cite Dolphy’s unique expressivity on that instrument.

“Nobody else played it like that,” Davis said. “Some good players would not even attempt to play it.”

The impact of the Dolphy-Davis colloquies on Newton was evident. “They bring tears to my eyes, how they understood each other as artists and human beings,” he said, adding that he was so taken by “Muses” that, for purposes of analysis, he devised a system for juxtaposing the two takes by simultaneously playing the improvisations — one on his main computer and the other on his laptop.

His conclusion? “Each time it’s like they had a thousand different ways of approaching how the improvisation could unfold.”

Beyond the duos, all of which were recorded on July 1, Musical Prophet offers a variety of settings that shed light on the various dimensions of Dolphy’s art. A quintet with Hutcherson, Woody Shaw (trumpet), J.C. Moses (drums) and Davis alternating with Eddie Khan on bass interprets two Dolphy originals, “Iron Man” and “Mandrake,” as well as Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” — a loping head-solos-head exercise whose conservative form belies the flickering of microtonality in Dolphy’s birdlike flute.

“Birds have notes in between our notes — you try to imitate something they do and, like, maybe it’s between F and F#, and you’ll have to go up or come down on the pitch,” Dolphy said in “John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy Answer the Jazz Critics,” an article by Don DeMicheal that ran in the April 12, 1962, edition of DownBeat. “It’s really something. ... Indian music has something of the same quality — different scales and quarter tones. I don’t know how you label it, but it’s pretty.”

A sextet with Davis, Prince Lasha on flute, Sonny Simmons on alto saxophone, Clifford Jordan on soprano saxophone and Charles Moffett on drums provides the setting for some soulful multiphonics on “Music Matador.” Composed by Lasha and Simmons, the tune traffics in the kind of avant-Latin groove with which Dolphy, a Spanish-speaking Panamanian-American, was comfortable.

“It’s one of the least understood aspects of his language,” Newton said. The largest complement of musicians — 10 in all, with the addition of Garvin Bushell on bassoon and the replacement of Moffett by Moses — is enlisted on “Burning Spear.” The song is named for Jomo Kenyatta, who acquired that moniker for his militant role in Kenya’s fight for independence and served as his country’s first prime minister and first president. The tune, a raucous celebration led by Dolphy’s exclamatory bass clarinet, is one of two in the collection that have an explicitly political edge.

The other is a 15-minute track titled “A Personal Statement.” Recorded on March 2, 1964, at a radio station in Ann Arbor, Michigan —  where the composer, pianist Bob James, was an adventurous student — the piece is the collection’s longest. It’s also the most wide-ranging sonically, with each of Dolphy’s three instruments assuming a distinct profile amid a shifting soundscape of woodblock accents, pianistic clusters and ensemble passages in a kind of fractured waltz time — all framed by a classically rendered libretto centered on a vocal line: “Jim Crow might one day be gone.”

A version of the piece also appears on Other Aspects, on which Newton — uncertain of its name or composer at the time of that album’s release — provisionally titled it “Jim Crow.”

Still another side of Dolphy is offered in the single solo outing — three takes, actually — of the Ned Washington-Victor Young tune “Love Me.” Those tracks, the shortest in the collection at less than four minutes each, find Dolphy in full flight, pushing his alto saxophone to the limit and beyond. In its risk-taking, Newton said, Dolphy nods to piano titans — Thelonious Monk (for his counterintuitive leaps) and Art Tatum (for his harmonic and technical range).

“He went to the edge of the cliff and he jumped off,” Newton said of Dolphy. “He was falling and he had to fly.”

Dolphy’s artistic courage has had a profound impact on other players, too. Newton, who has topped the Flute category in the DownBeat Critics Poll 23 times, acknowledges the debt on his album Romance And Revolution (Blue Note). The album was released in 1987 —  as was Other Aspects — and Dolphy was clearly on his mind.

Newton’s soaring solo version of the Walter Gross-Jack Lawrence ballad “Tenderly” was, he said, “highly influenced by Eric,” who had done the piece solo on alto saxophone on Far Cry. “A lot of [Romance And Revolution] was.”

Newton’s friend and colleague Bennie Maupin, known for his horn work on albums by Miles Davis (Bitches Brew) and Herbie Hancock (Head Hunters and Mwandishi), similarly was taken by Dolphy’s work. His fascination began with an encounter with Dolphy at the Minor Key lounge in Detroit. Following a particularly ferocious set, the youngster got up the nerve to engage Dolphy.

“I told him what I was doing,” Maupin recalled. “He was just standing there, holding a flute, and said, ‘Play something for me.’” Maupin did, and an impromptu lesson ensued in which Dolphy spent 45 minutes explaining how to hold the instrument, improve one’s embouchure and the like. “They were key things only somebody who really knew the instrument could have shown me. He was very patient and very kind.”

Inspired by that experience, Maupin bought a bass clarinet, which he ultimately used on dates with both Davis and Hancock. After Maupin moved from his native Detroit to California, he began using the instrument in gigs with Newton. And when Newton came into possession of the Dolphy sheet music, Maupin used the instrument in a band, Dolphyana, created to play that music.

The group was short-lived, but it brought Maupin and Newton together for a concert at the 2008 Healdsburg Jazz Festival in California. The band covered a variety of material from Out To Lunch!, Outward Bound and Last Date — the last represented by “The Madrig Speaks, The Panther Walks,” which, appearing on Musical Prophet as “Mandrake,” serves as a platform for Dolphy’s alto at its most agitated.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Maupin said. “We worked through the music measure by measure to see what kind of blend we could get.

“Dolphy’s music speaks for itself. He was involved in making things sound beautiful. He was always trying to be himself. A lot of people compare me to him. He’s one of my mentors, even from the grave.”

Dolphy’s influence was felt beyond wind players. The late pianist Geri Allen analyzed Dolphy’s music for a master’s thesis, incorporating what she learned into her writing, in tunes like “Dolphy’s Dance.” Another pianist, Diane Moser, drew on Dolphy’s predilection for winged creatures — he was said to transcribe the chirping of birds — with her “Birdsongs For Eric,” which had its premiere in 2014 at a commemoration of Dolphy’s music at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

That year, the 50th anniversary of Dolphy’s death, saw a tribute in Berlin, at Rickenbackers Music Inn, featuring a group led by Gebhard Ullmann on saxophone, flute and bass clarinet. Ullmann, who formed the group Out to Lunch in the 1980s, remains a central figure among veteran Dolphy enthusiasts in Germany’s capital.

Dolphy also counts enthusiasts among a younger generation. At The Bop Stop, a listening room in Cleveland with a reputation for offering eclectic fare, the new-music ensemble No Exit presented an all-Dolphy program in May 2017. The set offered fresh takes on familiar tunes, including a version of “Hat And Beard,” from Out To Lunch!, reimagined for string trio, trumpet, alto saxophone and drums.

Recorded tributes to Dolphy began to appear in the years after his death. The late Frank Zappa, who listed Dolphy as an influence on the Mothers of Invention’s first LP, Freak Out!, included “The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue” on his 1970 recording, Weasels Ripped My Flesh.

Closer to Dolphy’s aesthetic home, small groups led by saxophonist Oliver Lake offered homages on 1980’s Prophet and 1996’s Dedicated To Dolphy, which includes the Hale Smith composition “Feather.”

In 2014, pianists Aki Takase from Japan and Alexander von Schlippenbach from Germany released So Long, Eric! (Intakt), featuring European interpreters of Dolphy’s music. Among them was drummer Han Bennink, who joined Dolphy in his quartet on Last Date, recorded in concert at a radio studio in Hilversum, the Netherlands, just 27 days before the multi-instrumentalist died.

If he were alive, Dolphy might very well be surprised at all the attention being lavished on him, given the difficulty parts of the jazz establishment had in understanding him during his lifetime. That failure reveals itself in the elementary nature of the questions the late critic Leonard Feather asked of Dolphy in an undated interview, an audio excerpt of which appears at, a website operated by neuroscientist Alan Saul.

Feather’s questions largely revolve around the move away from improvisation based strictly on harmonic progressions. Feather, with his mellifluous British intonation, asks: “If your foundation is not a chord sequence, which is what the traditional basis of jazz was, then what is the foundation?”

Dolphy, in earthier tones, replies: “Some things you play are not based on chords, they’re based on freedom of sound. You start with one line and you keep inventing as you go along.”

The gap in perspective remains wide throughout the excerpt, with little apparent prospect for a narrowing. Though Dolphy always showed great respect for all jazz traditions — the anthropomorphic cries he wrung from his horns consciously harked back to the early days of jazz in New Orleans — those who knew him said he was too iconoclastic to operate within the straight and narrow strictures of jazz convention.

“He was constantly bending,” Smith said. “That’s what got him into so much difficulty. You upset the natural thing, people get upset.”

These days, when so much of Dolphy’s vocabulary has been absorbed into the jazz lexicon, it seems hard to grasp what the upset was all about. While no one knows how he would have evolved, Davis said that, at the time of his death, Dolphy was working on music for string quartets. He would have been well prepared for such a task: The vivid intimations of Third Stream stylings on Dolphy’s 1960 album Out There, with Ron Carter on cello and George Duvivier on bass, suggest that the string quartet would have become another in the varied box of tools with which he reached out to new groups of listeners in fresh ways.

“He certainly knew how to put the music across,” Davis said. DB