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Big Al

AOTW 12/15-12/21: OUT TO LUNCH Eric Dolphy

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Eric Doplhy - Out To Lunch (click here to buy)

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John S has tagged me to pick this week's AOTW, and I've tagged sidewinder to pick the AOTW for 12/22-12/28.

I'm taking a different approach for this AOTW by picking an album which I recognize is an unquestioned classic, but whose appeal is absolutely lost on me.

That's right. I can't stand this album, it frustrates the hell outta me every time I listen to it, and it's not for lack of trying.

I'll go into a point-by-point analysis of why this album drives me batty when the week actually starts, not wanting to take away from the current AOTW. But just keep all of this in your minds when preparing for next week: what the hell am I missing??!?!? Why has its charm eluded me all these years? Why is Dolphy seen as such a jazz genius, when, to these ears, his playing sounds like only so much squawking?!?!? Really and truly, I want to know!!!!

Talk to y'all next week!

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a very brave and cool idea. I'll try to fit this disk in with all the other stuff I recently got. You do realise you're asking a lot of people if want them to make you see the light. This was the second or third jazz album I bought and I didn't buy it just for fun way back when I really had no money at all. This means the light had hit me already and it hit in those deep recesses that can hardly be caught in words.

I'll try though.

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Cool choice! I LOVE this! It's the greatest Dolphy album, and one of the best albums of them all, in my opinion!

However, I do not know if I can say in words what exactly it is that makes me love it like I do. I'll try if I find the time to listen to it.

ubu

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Nice choice, Big Al. Look forward to picking up the baton from you during Xmas week. Understandably, this is an album which polarises the listening audience. People either worship it or hate it with a vengeance. Count me amongst the fans - I will be spinning the RVG CD and the NY USA LP (hell, I've even got a King of this one too :wacko: ) just to make sure that all of the various nuances are extracted. What Tony Williams does on the drums on this session is just amazing !

:tup

Edited by sidewinder

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Just to prepare everyone, here's a cool essay on this album from rec.music.bluenote. I think this essay encapsulates almost everything I love about the album.

Edited by Guy Berger

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Very cool indeed! Thanks Guy!

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I was slightly slow to warm to this (and Dolphy in general), so this will be a good one for me to reevaluate too.

I do like it, and always have liked it at least to some extent. But I don't think I've ever really gotten bitten by the Dolphy bug. I understand why others have, and intellectually I understand why he's so important. But for some reason, I've just been slow to warm to his sound. (I can dig it, but I probably haven't yet really DUG it yet - even after all these years.)

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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From the page linked by Guy: This evening I was listening to "Out To Lunch" and it occurred to me that the whole thing could be a soundtrack to a detective movie from an alternate universe, and if I concentrated, I could probably watch the whole movie in my head if I wanted.

Almost the same here. To me, Out To Lunch is like a soundtrack to one of those late 50ies, early 60ies Dr. Mabuse films with Gerd Fröbe. I love this stuff. It's fantastic music that creates a nice, eerie atmosphere. Damn, talking about music is not a strength of mine.

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Rockefeller Center, you hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. The key to enjoying this disc, at least for me, was to think soundtrack. Personally, I think Hat and Beard would have been absolutely perfect for the opening of Welles' Touch of Evil. I get shivers just thinking of the combination.

I remember way back when Shorter's The All Seeing Eye was the AOTW, and I talked about the experience being halfway between auditory and visual, well, this disc has the same effect. It's more than music, it creates an entire life experience between my ears each time I hear it. For me, this disc is one of those rare performances that will always be "top ten" material.

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Interesting idea Al, as I share some of your feelings for this Dolphy date, it will be interesting for me to see again why some people love it so much.

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If you don't already own this disc and are interested in checking it out take a look at this discussion:

Blue Notes on sale

I've always enjoyed this disc but never been as taken with it as others seem to be. I am looking forward to revisiting it and really giving it a few good listens.

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This being AOTW caused be to listen to my Liberty-era pressing last night (I gotta get a better copy!). My first reaction was "what's not to like?" Eric and the usual suspects... but then I thought maybe what puts some people off this session (other than impossibly high expectations) is a 'neither fish nor fowl' syndrome--instead of being too out, it may be not out or in enough. Let me try again: When this was issued, a successful inside/out session probably seemed like quite the high wire act but to listeners comning to it for the first time now (I first heard it in the early '70s) it may seem like someone walking the wire when it's laying on the ground, i.e. no bitg deal. I love Out to Lunch but sometimes have an analogous reaction to soul jazz sessions that strike me as neither jazzy nor funky enuff, just kinda luke warm...y'all know what I'm saying? I agree with the posters above, the compositions are key; it's NOT a blowing session...if that's what you want Eric did lots of those for Prestige.

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In between the time I announced that Out to Lunch would be the AOW and now, I checked out the RVG from the library. I have owned this album in various CD incarnations previously, and have traded them away after getting too frustrated to keep them around.

I’ve listened to it nonstop now for about five days; not so much with the intent of TRYING to like the damn thing, but just to try and listen with new ears, and maybe perhaps in documenting it, can find out what it is that rubs me the wrong way.

Before I start, I want to make clear two things: one is that I highly respect all of the opinions supporting this album, even though I likely disagree with a lot of them; second, I hold no animosity towards those who champion the avant-garde because, letsfaceit, jazz is/was avant garde to begin with; I just wonder about the ferocity with which some people champion it.

Now, after quite a few listenings, I’ve come to find a few things I like about this album:

-The heads. I like Dolphy’s writing and arranging skills. He has a very unique way with melody and counterpoint, and uses harmony in ways that still sound fresh all these years later. It’s the “free” parts that I have trouble enjoying, which will be discussed in further detail. But I enjoy the melodies; heck, some of them are even whistle-able.

-Freddie Hubbard. It constantly amazes me how well he fits in on ANY session, be it hard bop, post bop, or free. And this album is no exception. His solos are melodic, almost to the point of redefining the song in which the solo is played.

-Tony Williams and Richard Davis. Individually and together , these guys were a powerhouse of subtlety (if such an contradiction is possible). Their telepathy, especially on “Hat and Beard” is unreal.

(And I’d like to stop here for a second to point out one of the gripes I have against this album: what I perceive as the mistitling of some of these songs. “Hat and Beard” is allegedly a tribute to Monk, but nothing in this track reminds me of ANYthing Monk may have conceived; and granted, Monk was as individualistic as they come. BUT, Monk was also melodic, and Hubbard’s solo notwithstanding, there’s nothing that I find melodic in this tune. ESPECIALLY in Dolphy’s solo, where at some points he sounds as though he’s strangling a cat (which leads me to a thought that scares me about Dolphy: I don’t question his technical brilliance for a second. What scares me is the thought that every single one of those “notes” was planned. So when it sounds like he’s trying to dislodge the reed from the horn via a crescent-wrench, that’s PRECISELY the sound he was aiming for. And that scares the hell outta me!) “Something Sweet, Something Tender,” as another example, features some beautiful playing for the most part, until Dolphy starts soloing on his bass clarinet, and turns it into something far darker than the title indicates. Again, if that was his intent, than that scares the hell outta me. AGAIN!)

But getting back to Davis and Williams: as with Hubbard, was there any genre these guys COULDN’T play? Y’know, I’ve always dug Ron Carter and Tony Williams as a team; y’ever wonder what the Miles Davis Quintet might’ve sounded like with Richard Davis in place of Carter? Something definitely worth pondering.

“Gazzelloni” is probably my favorite track, but I think it’s by default. I enjoy Dolphy’s flute playing, but his solo here (and all over the album) makes me question why Dolphy never held any notes longer than a sixteenth note! There’s beauty in pacing, y’know. Most of the solos on this album, he sounds like a man possessed, or at the very least, very pissed off. Now, I know some people dig that. Someone please tell me WHY! I really fail to see anything remotely “musical” in any of this (and again, if this was his intent…..)

I guess what really irritates me about this album is that it seems like there’s a joke going on here, and the joke’s on me. And I’m not laughing. This manifests itself in the liner notes, where the intent (or at least the picture) of each song is explained. I’m sorry to say that the explanations don’t help me; fact is, any music that needs explaining isn’t “music” to me; it’s art, with a capital “F.” (To borrow a phrase from Andy Partridge)

And I guess if we’re gonna be visual, I’m reminded of a story I read in a medical journal years ago in a doctor’s office. It seems that there was a playoff game, two outs bottom of the ninth, and the batter hit’s a routine fly ball. If the fielder catches the ball, the game is over. So the crowd wills the ball into staying in midair. And it never comes down. And as long as the people will the ball to stay in the air, the game cannot end. Meanwhile the fielder stays in his position, daring the crowd into taking their focus off the ball so he can catch the ball, end the game, and get on with life.

Well, I’m the fielder, the crowd is the fans of this album, and as long as that ball continues to hover up there where I can’t grasp it, I’ll probably stay put until I can.

[Okay, that was a bit of a stretch. I’m going to bed. Hopefully, I gave y’all enough fodder to debate while I sleep. I’m sure I’ll remember more stuff as the week goes on. Fire away!]

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The beauty in music is subjectively perceived. A beauty of music (and of all human expressions, creative and otherwise) arises from the virtually infinite variations that are possible.

Among all that variety, Big Al, "Out To Lunch" is apparently not "your cup of tea," and I can't argue against your contention that "any music that needs explaining isn't 'music' to me". But doesn't that fly in the face of, at least, some of the rationale behind your choosing "Out To Lunch" for AOTW?

Enough has been discussed and written about this recording over the years so that if you're looking for words that will persuade or support you, one way or another, about this record, it should be easy to find them.

At this late/early hour, I can share a few personal impressions: Dolphy (and Mingus), two hometown heroes to me, were two of my main bridges into jazz. As I got into their records, I checked out other records with/by the musicians I heard with Dolphy and Mingus, and branched out from there, mostly into jazz but also, from Dolphy, a little into 20th century European concert music and Japanese shakuhachi music. I've been enjoying "Out To Lunch" for almost 35 years now. At first, it was strange and quite compelling, getting to similar areas in my developing senses that Monk did. I could always hear Monk in "Hat and Beard", and I think I soon also got "Last Date" with Dolphy's marvelous interpretation of "Epistrophy". After a while, it became much more compelling, but any strangeness that I first heard in Dolphy was displaced by a shared sense of melody, soul, rhythm, and fun(k), kind of like Bird at Massey Hall but years later...

Another thing that drew me closer to Dolphy's playing was how he incorporated the sounds of "nature" into his music. Growing up in L. A., we both must have heard those same birds that you can hear in his playing, especially on flute. I can also often hear the cars, car horns, airplanes, ...

In better times, I used to exercise to this record. Dolphy, Bobby, Richard Davis, and Tony really cook! Freddie is in fine form. I'd be doing a funky, skipping workout on the treadmill. The time would fly by!

Oliver Lake has been a long-time champion of Dolphy's music. I find most of his own music and his interpretations of Dolphy compositions interesting in their own right, but they also deepen my appreciation for the singularity of Dolphy himself...

If "Out To Lunch" doesn't grab you now, perhaps it will in the future, or perhaps it never will. That's life :)

Edited by SEK

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But getting back to Davis and Williams: as with Hubbard, was there any genre these guys COULDN’T play? Y’know, I’ve always dug Ron Carter and Tony Williams as a team; y’ever wonder what the Miles Davis Quintet might’ve sounded like with Richard Davis in place of Carter? Something definitely worth pondering.

Davis filled in for Carter a couple of times. There's a live recording from '66 (Portland ME, I believe) that has him on board, though I don't remember much about it offhand.

Guy

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I am enjoying this disc more and more as I keep playing it recently! I don't know what it is, other than being more "ready" for this disc after exploring many more adventurous discs after buying this, but I am really getting into this disc. Beautiful stuff!

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But doesn't that fly in the face of, at least, some of the rationale behind your choosing "Out To Lunch" for AOTW?

Heh heh.... oops! :winky:

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Another thing that drew me closer to Dolphy's playing was how he incorporated the sounds of "nature" into his music. Growing up in L. A., we both must have heard those same birds that you can hear in his playing, especially on flute. I can also often hear the cars, car horns, airplanes, ...

That's a great point, one that I'd never considered before. I think I hear what you're saying, that music doesn't necessarily have to be "melodic" to paint a picture. I'll have to try and listen to this with the ears attuned in that direction.

Your whole post was terrific, BTW. Thanks for jumping in here!

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I've still got my vinyl copy never having felt the need to upgrade. This is one of those albums that I respect rather than like and rarely play. All the components are in place for a great date but it doesn't really work for me. The guys sound as if they are going to be different at all costs and they are finding it difficult. Things have loosened up by the final track but I would have liked another swinger to make it more palatable.

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The standout track for me on this album has always been 'Something Sweet, Something Tender'. In particular, the section near the end with Dolphy (on bass clarinet) and Richard Davis (on bowed bass) in unison sounds incredible, near-telepathic. Then there is this incredible cadenza from Dolphy - impecably executed going from one end of the scale to the other - with Hubbard on mute for additional effect on what must be one of the greatest ever performance endings (at least it is for me anyway B) ). The unexpectedness and shear audacity of this never fails to get the hairs standing on the back of the neck. Truly great jazz !

Edited by sidewinder

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As this AOW draws to a close, I want to extend my heartiest thanks to all of you who participated. This thread succeeded in helping me both to listen for things I hadn’t heard previously, and to listen past what was driving me nuts (and still does) to the things that help bring out the beauty of this music. And I have all of you to thank for that!

Next stop: some AEC! HA! :g

Cheers, and a Merry Christmas to you all. Alright, Sidewinder: take it away!!!

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I received the Japanese SHM reissue yesterday and started listening to it a little before midnight. After midnight passed, I looked at the back of the album and realized that today makes it exactly 50 years since Out to Lunch was recorded. I didn't realize until I'd read the liner notes how closely Dolphy's death followed the making of Out to Lunch. As a total Out to Lunch neophyte, I've been blown away after two listens. As an Andrew Hill fan, I've long appreciated Richard Davis, but he really outdid himself on this one. I think that the same can be said for the rest of the band, all of whom sound inspired by Dolphy's interesting (and fun!) compositions. I'm not sure how the other editions of Out to Lunch sounded, but this reissue sounds like it was recorded yesterday. I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time listening to it.

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Justin, thanks for mentioning the 50 year anniversary. Still one of my all-time favorites. It kind of "ruined" Dolphy's earlier recordings for me.

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