AGUIRRE records


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Eric Dolphy's final studio album is hailed as one of the finest examples of mid-'60s post bop. Its reputation is purely one of backwards significance. Dolphy, having recorded the album in February 1964, was in Europe less than six weeks later and his all-too-brief life ended less than two months after that. Though likely he never held a copy in his hands or heard any critical opinion of it, it marked his last flurry of original compositions and is considered his apex. It is fascinating to consider whether he would had moved past or away from the album in 1965, had he lived.

Though Dolphy should not be considered an avant-garde musician by the term's most common definitions, most interpretations of Out To Lunch have been done by players working squarely in that area. So it is with this album, the most ambitious in its recreation of the five-tune disc (with one original added to the final "Straight Up and Down, extending the piece to almost thirty minutes). All five compositions from the original quintet LP are revisited in the same order, the record sleeve even duplicates the old album jacket, down to the typeface and black-and-blue color scheme, although a photo taken by Daidō Moriyama inside Tokyo's massive (and massively busy) Shinjuku railway station replaces the Dolphy's album's enigmatic "Will Be Back" sign, whose clock hands indicated no conventional time of expected return.

Otomo Yoshihide first came to international prominence in the 1990s as the leader of the experimental rock group Ground Zero, and has since worked in a variety of contexts, ranging from free improvisation to noise, jazz, avant-garde and contemporary classical. The always surprising and sometimes confounding turntablist, sound artist, onkyo improviser and now avant jazzer heading up a 15-piece aggregation of Japanese and European experimentalists. Who better to grapple with Dolphy's legacy -- so idiosyncratic in its day and yet so influential to creative improvisers who followed -- than a musician with his own singular take on how sounds can be organized in the jazz realm over 40 years later and half a world away? In other words don't expect the conventional from Otomo any more than you would from Dolphy himself. That's not to say that recognizable themes ("Hat and Beard," "Out to Lunch," "Straight Up and Down") don't appear, or that individual players -- including Alfred Harth on bass clarinet bursting into the mix and leaping across the instrument's tonal range in a way that recalls the master himself -- don't carry forward echoes from the past in the spirit of a sincere and heartfelt homage.