My two musicians are (again) Eric Dolphy and Andrew Hill. One dead in his tracks too tragically young – the other, luckily still with us and belatedly, maybe, getting the acclaim he justly deserves. Two firebrands on saxophone (flute and bass clarinet) and piano respectively who nevertheless in the time of ferment they burned in when young kept a foot back behind the line of tradition. Dolphy could be seen as in the direct descent from Charlie Parker – Hill, well, a combo of Monk and Bud Powell at certain moments... maybe... But each was also his own man,with a fully developed style and broader musical aesthetic by the time these records were made. Dolphy has alongside him Booker Little, another tragically young fatality, and a powerful rhythm section – who all are magnificient, Haynes especially. Who is the overlap this time round (along with the relationship between Dolphy and Hill, of course) as he plays on both sessions, introducing the Dolphy tune with a few crisp bars of cymbal and sinuous snare. Little plays confidently and well, Dolphy bursting in as he always does, impatiently but in an almost boyish, charming manner. 'Far Cry' was dedicated to Charlie Parker, I believe, who at that time was only dead a few years – but his ghost still overshadowed mightily. Dolphy eschews his more dissonant angular intevallic leaps in his solo - almost reminding me of one of the other keepers of the Bird flame – with that cutting tone – Jackie McLean. But playing with that Bird-like fluency that demonstrated his immense technique. Byard - quite boppish. Then theme and out ending on upwards squawky twisting notes as Haynes ripples to a stop.
Eric Dolphy: Far Cry -1960
Eric Dolphy: alto sax;Booker Little: trumpet;Jaki Byard:piano; Ron Carter:bass; Roy Haynes:drums.
Andrew Hill: Black Fire - 1963
Andrew Hill:piano;Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone;Richard Davis:bass;Roy Haynes: drums.
Hill's theme 'Pumpkin' is a bumpy ride with a bar of 5/4 tacked on every so often to disrupt the rhythmic flow – which also acts as a unifying device and is negotiated in varying ways – a fluent Hill solo – well, he wrote it – a swift run through by Haynes and Davis – then Henderson, who sounds a fraction stifled here and there by that odd bar but steams through mightily overall. I had never really listened to the tenor player much until recently – given that he was fresh on the scene when this was recorded he plays with a gruff assurance throughout the album. Hill satisfies like Dolphy to the extent that he has a similar knotty harmonic vision and mastery of unexpected moves – and is also a superior compositional craftsman for his various small groups. They don't run off into the totally uncharted but play his compositions with cool mastery that has its flexibility tested to the limits at times. The 'Black Fire' here is a slow-burner rather than a flat-out conflagration – controlled heat.
Dolphy - an accomplished composer with a variety of takes on melding the old to the new – died young and Hill went into obscurity for a long time. The freshness of this music tempts speculations as to what might have been... maybe the vindication is that jazz as it stands today – a sprawling ill-defined and almost undefinable area – contains in its mainstream much of the advances and sounds these guys made.