How many of you remember the first jazz albums that you purchased? Obviously these would end up making a big dent in your musical thought; sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. I remember my first purchases, both the good and the bad. I’d rather focus on the good. Luckily one of these early albums of note happened to be recorded this week in 1961.
So let’s spend a little time on my personal journey with Eric Dolphy At The Five Spot, Vol 1 recorded on July 16, 1961. I remember exactly when I purchased it. The purchase occurred during a high school band trip to performance the at the Brach’s Holiday Parade taking place over Thanksgiving in Chicago. I believe it would have been 1993, when I was a junior in high school and just then forming my initial love of jazz.
After the parade and all the festivities of the trip, we the students had the chance to go to the Water Tower Place mall before we all jumped in the busses to head home. Obviously, I searched for the music store to peruse through albums. At this time, I was focussed on cassette tapes as that was the medium of choice. Now growing up in a small town, the only chance to look for awesome classical and jazz albums was to go to the “big city” of Evansville, Indiana. So being in Chicago meant a great opportunity to find awesome albums to buy with the money my parents gave me to buy a souvenir.
I remember walking in the store and heading straight for the classical and jazz section.Looking through, I found a few cassettes that piqued my interest. Then I kneeled down to the bottom shelf on the wall. This was always where the good stuff was, in my mind. They were also obviously the cassettes that had been there for a while. I grabbed Eric Dolphy At the Five Spot only because it was covered in dust and the album artwork was interesting to me: a poorly lit photo of the band on stage – a brief moment in time – washed in sepia tones. I knew nothing of the artists, nor the album, but I had to purchase it. The album, looking like a poorly made cassette, maybe a bootleg, called out to me.
So on the way home, I put the cassette into my Walkman and……MY MIND WAS BLOWN…MY MUSICAL TASTES WERE CHANGED FOREVER.
Three tracks – that’s it – Fire Waltz, Bee Vamp, The Prophet.
I remember being completely enthralled with the quick piano vamp and then Dolphy coming in with such a simple line, but his mic sat on top of all the other instruments to the point where you could only focus on Dolphy. And then he soloed…. Such raw power, and the runs. I had never heard someone play the saxophone like that. It blew Charlie Parker out of the water. Disjointed at times, but it all made sense. The trills at the 2:30 mark followed by raw staccato notes. I was hooked. The rest of the album affected me just like the beginner of Fire Waltz.
I played it and rewound it so much on the trip that the tape started to stretch almost immediately, which just added to the reckless abandon of Dolphy’s sound. I will remember this album til my last breath. LONG LIVE THE MUSIC OF ERIC DOLPHY.