JOHN COLTRANE & ERIC DOLPHY / “Dolphy & Trane Mixtape”

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Two gentle revolutionaries.
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Everyone who knew them in the sixties testifies and bears witness, Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane were sensitive souls, humble, quiet, unassuming. For some, this made their music even more difficult to comprehend.
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Their sound was so fierce; so iconoclastic—damn, the rules, light-speed forward. Any sound is acceptable, every sound could be music. How did they do it? How did they make those ugly sounds be such beautiful music?

What these literally gentle men did was blow the cobwebs out of every listener’s mind. This awesome music is both refreshing and at the same time frightening. Their sound made you think of things you never thought of before—and that’s the essence of revolution. Not just overturning but entirely replacing the old order.
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After Dolphy and Trane jazz was never the same. No matter what one played or how one played, there was a specter on the bandstand haunting you. Could anyone ever match Trane, would anyone ever be as simultaneously proficient and innovative a multi-instrumentalist as was Eric Dolphy?

It’s over fifty years after their death and no one as come up with an affirmative answer.

David Murray yes on two instruments, tenor and bass clarinet, but Dolphy did three: alto sax, bass clarinet and flute. And I do not mean to imply that David Murray is not a monster, but damn Dolphy and Trane set the bar so high.
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The bass clarinet is a fiendish instrument to manipulate and keep in tune. In Eric hands, the long horn was so malleable. The way Dolphy could twist the notes, the instrument could have been a stick of musical licorice. To achieve that level of mastery requires both concentration and incessant practice.
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For the ordinary musician, reaching such a pinnacle on such a difficult instrument would have precluded mastering a second. Dolphy’s main instrument was the alto saxophone. Not since Bird did any musician evidence such absolute technical command but Dolphy had it, plus Dolphy also set new standards for flute playing.
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To excel as a flautist while standing next to John Coltrane blowing “My Favorite Things”—do I have to say any more? Hell, who wants to try it now that Trane is gone. As a technician, Eric Dolphy was unearthly.

And as for Trane, yes Pharoah is a master tenor saxophonist and an entrancing soprano saxophonist. But he is not the composer Coltrane was. When will there be two more musicians as strong as the aural firm of Dolphy and Coltrane? Probably never.

Even Charlie Parker who dominated bebop had a much shorter era of influence than Coltrane. We’re sneaking up on sixty years. It’s ridiculous.
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So here it is 2010, the Trane left the station way back in 1967 and here is a whole album of previously unreleased sounds. Some of the tapes were available as bootlegs among the hard core collectors but as far as general circulation, some of this stuff is brand new. And you know what? The album sounds brand new. Sounds like some abso-freaking-lutely new shit!

As far as I’m concerned this music qualifies as classic music—if you don’t believe me, research music from 1962 and see if you can find any instrumental music to match this in terms of iconoclasm and trendsetting.

The Complete Coltrane Live At Birdland 1962. Get ready. Just to give a full picture, I’ve selected two cuts from the new album and one cut from the box set The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings, which contains three different versions, one of which was issued on Coltrane’s Impressions album. Three cuts. Trane plays tenor on the first cut and soprano on the other two. Eric plays alto, and then flute, and then bass clarinet.

This version of “Mr. P.C.” is the absolute bomb—even though the sound is weak, the music is so strong, you forget you’re digging inferior fidelity. The choice of notes. The velocity of the expressions. Whirls of worlds spinning and hurtling as though a universe were being born. Astounding ideas about what music can express.

I know, I know. Not everybody can get to this. Some will run from this covering their ears to stop the bleeding. Others will dismiss the creative chaos as mere cacophony. But if you can stand it, these songs—and singing is what this truly is—these songs will change you, encourage you to change yourself into something more glorious than you ever were before.
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Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane. When they played, the planet of human music had two suns. Everything was illuminated. Days without nights. No shadows, sunshine everywhere. Dolphy & Trane. Oh what a feeling.

—Kalamu ya Salaam

Dolphy & Trane Mixtape Playlist

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The Complete 1962 Birdland Broadcasts - John Coltrane
01 “Mr. P.C.”
02 “My Favorite Things”

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03 “India” - The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings - John Coltrane

This entry was posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 3:05 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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