Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eric Dolphy-Booker Little at the Five Spot Vol. 2: The Rudy Van Gelder Edition

The internet has led to various good things and some less good. Like the habit of some companies to rely on amateur writers' reviews to compensate for their lack of an editorial staff. The company pays nothing; they get highly erratic results; writers go without work. No one seems to care. That's the way it is. For example I accidentally stumbled across one such review today. It informed us that the Live at the Five Spot recordings contain lesser-known musicians. Booker Little, Eric Dolphy, Mal Waldron, Richard Davis and Eddie Blackwell...lesser known? Sure, they are if you don't know anything about jazz. If you do, well. . .

So. Never mind that for now. I have in my hand the jewel case of the Rudy Van Gelder Edition of Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot, Volume Two (Prestige PRS-31339). When CDs first hit Prestige/Fantasy issued all three volumes of the date as single CDs, which when you consider the playing time of the volumes (some 30 minutes or so), was a bit stingy in my estimation. The new Rudy Van Gelder edition remedies this. Volume Two includes the cuts from The Memorial Album (Volume Three) in addition to the two numbers originally a part of the second volume as released. So you get "Aggression," "Like Someone in Love," "Number Eight (Potsa Lotas)" and "Booker's Waltz."

The Van Gelder touch on remastering these sides is noticeable. He gets the sound of the band as they were meant to be heard--which is more or less what you got on the LPs.

The music? Totally classic. "Aggression" is a barn stormer that madly cooks from start to finish. Little and especially Dolphy (on bass clarinet) turn in some amazing solos. Waldron's piano is possessed. OK, the instrument is out-of-tune as Neil Tesser notes, but what Waldron is doing accentuates that to his advantage. At times his piano sounds like a kalimba, it is so drivingly percussive. Blackwell is on fire, as he is throughout. He and Richard Davis form one of the most exciting rhythm teams of the era. They drive!!

"Like Someone in Love" has great Dolphy flute as only Dolphy could do. "Number Eight" is a fabulous Dolphy composition that snakes and swirls through its routining (some interesting changes alternating with a riff vamp) in ways that drive the soloists into a very good place. Waldron's solo hits hard at the out-of-tune notes, getting a sound that a correctly tuned instrument just would not produce. I've found over the years of listening that the piano is just right for most of the music, which can be dissonant and tends to favor open voicings--less of the close thirds that would especially need proper tuning to properly sound. Perhaps that's the genius too of Mr. Waldron to accentuate those intervalic combinations. It works for the piano and it works for the music, which has much in the way of fire, drive, and a fully expanded tonality.

Live at the Five Spot is a one-time meeting of five masters at a peak of their considerable abilities. It turned out there wasn't much time left for the two principals--three months for Little, three years for Dolphy. But we have these wonderful sides, classics among classics. If you don't have Volumes Two and Three, here's a chance to get them in great remastered sound on one disk. Do that and you'll be happy, once you've listened a few times. Trust me.


  1. Just being played on KCR. I discover and it is great!!!!

  2. You are SO right. This is music for the ages. It has been a big part of my life for a long time. Thanks for your comment!

  3. What's beyond me is how they (a record company) can't get it together to issue the whole thing in one box set?! I still have my old vinyl set in a box, starts falling apart but at least I have nearly the whole concert.

    I know that when people heard the 'Live at the Plugged Nickel' complete version, everybody was blown away. Well I'd say this needs the same treatment, nice box, good liner notes, pictures an essay, re-mastering, and all the rest.

  4. I sure don't disagree with you joesh. This was such an important recording historically and artistically--and I'd be willing to bet there are additional takes that haven't seen the light of day. Maybe with Concord's stewartship that will happen? Good point anyway. Thanks!