Saturday, June 07, 2008

Eric Dolphy Tribute

(June 20, 1928-June 29, 1964)
Once again I hit the road, this time for Healdsburg, for the 10th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival. The occasion was the Eric Dolphy Tribute featuring James Newton and Bennie Maupin, with Jay Hoggard, Billy Hart and Darek Oles. It was some magnificent! I wasn't certain when I started out at 6:50ish that I'd make it, but I-80 was moving and so was 101-N. I was happy when I walked into Raven Theater on North Street to find Jessica introducing the line-up for the evening, and then when they didn't come out right away, the festival founder was able to share with the audience other highlights of this wonderful two week festival. Year ten has been pretty amazing, and if I could clone myself and didn't have a full time teaching gig to hold down, I certainly would have loved to have been able to hear Angela Wellman's Roots Band, Herb Gipson's CD release, and tonight's super band with Charlie Hayden, Kenny Baron, Joshua Redman, Ruth Cameron, Julian Lange Trio with Ray Drummond and Billy Hart.

The Hart man is really central to this year's festival, playing like I said, last night at the Dolphy tribute, maybe tomorrow as special guest? He was explosive last night...made me want to go look up some of the Dolphy tunes and see who was on drums when the pieces were composed. I couldn't imagine better performance, whether that was his solo introductions or wonderful support and punctuation of key elements in a given tune--it was like he was saying "amen!" or "hallelujah!" Ohe of my favorite musicians of all time, I could have listened to Hart's solos all night--they were so interesting and surprising, as were the Dolphy tunes. It was hard to imagine such talent in a musician who died at the young age of 36. He is certainly unmatched. His loss reminds me of Clifford Brown Jr., who also left the planet way too soon.

Maupin and Newton took turns introducing the songs, the first one never recorded "anywhere in the universe," Maupin said with a laugh after he and bassist Darek Oles, performed this unnamed masterpiece, Maupin on bass clarinet. The multi-instrumentalist would also play the piano and his reeds, soprano and tenor (instruments he is more well-known for). Other songs performed were: Out to of those Billy Hart explosive solos starting it off; another highlight was Hoggard's solo on vibes--his style more out than any I'd ever heard before (found out later that Hoggard teaches at Wesleyan college where Sonia Manon, CCA's former director of its Center for Art and Public Life Director is relocating to head a program there) ; Something Sweet/Something Tender followed that...remarkable highlight was, Oles' bass solo.

Straight Up...followed with Newton's comments that "Eric on of the greatest flutist of the 21st century. Newton was pretty phonomenal himself--I especially liked his flute whispers...sounded like wind brushing aside a lover's hair before a kiss. He was interested in many different types of music, and composers," the UCLA professor said. One of these composers was "one Charles Parker always wanted to study with by the name of Edgard Varèse. Eric worked on a piece with Varèse. Varèse was a classical flutist who specialized on contemporary music in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Then when he got older made a lot of money playing.... Here I got confused. Dolphy recorded a piece, "Gassaloni" (sp?), named for another composer--I have to look his name up and check.

This was followed by the lovely Maupin original, "Equal Justice," Maupin on piano, followed by another Dolphy tune, a blues tune, Blue 245. Maupin said blues was America's musical gift to the world. He is so right; however it's black America's gift to the world...the genesis for everything else, gospel, jazz, R&B, even rap.

The encore was The Mandrake Speaks, the Panther Walks. It was a lovely evening of music! I'm looking forward to seeing George Cables tomorrow morning in the Sacred Jazz concert at 10 a.m.

For more on Dolphy visit, and


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