Monday, April 20, 2020

Eric Dolphy On The Radio

Eric Dolphy died of complications due to diabetes on June 29th, 1964. He was only 36 years old. His career was short but legendary. Already he had worked with Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Booker Little, Mal Waldron, Ornette Coleman and Max Roach to name only a few. He saw just seven albums released in his lifetime; amazingly all in a 3-year span.
  • 1960: Outward Bound
  • 1961: Caribé with The Latin Jazz Quintet
  • 1961: Out There
  • 1961: At the Five Spot, Vol. 1 (live)
  • 1962: Far Cry
  • 1963: Conversations
  • 1963: At the Five Spot, Vol. 2 (live)
But posthumously another 25 Eric Dolphy albums have been released (mostly live recordings) and he appears on another 50 albums as a sideman. More than 70% of his ourve was released after his death, so he had little input into those releases. That being said, the last three known recordings he made were intended for radio broadcast: 
  • 1964: Last Date (for radio program at Hilversum)
  • 1964: Naima (for ORTF radio program at Paris)
  • 1964: Unrealized Tapes (for ORTF radio program at Paris)
1964 was a busy year. Dolphy left for a European tour with Charles Mingus. Their first concert of the tour was at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw on April 10th. As a tour highlight, Dolphy also was on Belgian Television RTB (Radio-Télévision Belge). That performance was taped at at the Palais des Congres in Liege on April 19th with the Charles Mingus Quintet. Normally a sextet, Johnny Coles was too ill to perform and they performed minus a trumpeter. Not everything was bright. In Bremen some young fascist painted a swastika on Dolphy's hotel room door. Dolphy announced on tour that he would remain in Europe when the tour wrapped up. More here.
Last Date was recorded on June 2, 1964 in Hilversum, Holland. The material was actually released in early 1965 which is earlier than any of his other radio recordings. Numerous radio stations operated from this location at the time: NCRV, KRO, VPRO, AVRO, RVU, ICOR, NRU, RNW, NTS, NOT, TELEAC, and TROS. This session was for the program "Jazz Magazine" on VARA in Holland. It's host Aad Bos was with VARA from 1954 to 1992. His program used the studio 5 space. After being laid off in 1992, Bos hosted "VPRO Jazz In Four" until he retired in 1996. More here.

Naima was mostly recorded Paris, France, June 11, 1964. Triple Mix was recorded in November of 1960 at Esoteric Sound Studios in New York. The other 4 tracks were recorded live for OTRF. Unrealized Tapes also consists of tracks from the June 11th session. It is confused by misspellings of some of the players names. They share a two tracks "G.W."  and "Serene." Discogs labeled this as a free jazz album which I would argue it is not. If you expect Ornette Coleman's reed squealing, this will strike you as comparatively subdued. Regardless the recordings should be observed with some reverence as they are Dolphy's last known recordings; made just 18 days before his death from diabetic shock.  More here.
Jacques Dieval, the French pianist produced the session at ORTF. Some of the session men like Donald Byard, and Nathan Davis has also joined Dolphy at the Chat Qui Peche club. But this session was probably recorded at studios in the Maison de L'ORTF.  To their credit, Resonance records has been releasing a number of ORTF jazz recordings from this era. That list also includes sessions with Larry Young, Nathan Davis, and Wes Montgomery. Jazz was part of the French post-war identity. They had been early adopters in the 1920s and in the following decades many African-American jazz musicians toured Europe, as it was more socially progressive than the U.S. Some came to stay, like Dolphy. More here.

From 1949 to 1981 as the RTF, then after 1964 as the ORTF, the Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, oversaw all public radio and television in France. All radio programming, and especially news broadcasts, were under the control of the national government. It sounds ominous but think of it as French NPR. But in 1980 there were only 7 of these licensed stations in France. Their competition was mostly French-language radio stations originating outside of France in the micro-state of Monaco, the Principality of Andorra, Luxembourg, Germany and of course BBC Francais.

But jazz is an instrumental music that supersedes language. Jazz Magazine listed off programs French jazz-heads could hear from Algiers, Brussels, Monte Carlo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and several in Germany, coming from Munich, Frankfort, Salzburg and Hamburg. Perhaps the most popular were the American jazz programs on VOA like Downbeat, or Willis Conover on the Voice of America Jazz Hour and Leonard Feather's Jazz Club USA. I won't go further down this tangent but if you are interested she covered this in great detail in the book  Jazz and Postwar French Identity by Elizabeth McGregor.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention one more radio session. There was one more in 1964, recorded before those but only released much later, piecemeal on other albums. Dolphy played with the Bob James Trio and Once Brass Ensemble at the ONCE festival at a VFW hall in Ann Arbor, MI on March 2nd, 1964. The session is mostly under the Bob James name, but a single Eric Dolphy track called "A personal statement" was recorded at WUOM. In that same era, 1956 through at least 1969 WUOM recorded and released LPs of it's own glee club and symphony band so they clearly had the ability. [LINK] But it remains uncertain who made the recording. Dolphy may have taped it himself, his earliest known recording is a home recording with Clifford Brown from 1954. The WUOM session was probably first released in 1987 on  Eric Dolphy ‎– Other Aspects. It was a re-release more recently on the album Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions. More here.

1 comment:

  1. ThresherK9:45 PM

    I know a bit about jazz, but was unfamiliar with Dolphy. I will have to listen to some.