In the beauty of a freeform jazz movement, Blue Note Records seemed to stay ahead of the curve and consistently push the envelope on artists who were both progressive and craftsmen and women of an era.
Timestamped, Eric Dolphy on Out To Lunch! is an expressional mastermind to commanding, but also knowing when to step out of the spotlight and to allow other conquerors of the craft to step in.
The five-track record spans over 42 minutes and much like a monument to jazz, has the likes of five different faces to choose from. Dolphy is the maestro behind the bass clarinet, flute, and even alto saxophone. He stretched his hands to be ambidextrous but not overwhelming. Instead, he allows Freddie Hubbard to play warm tones with his trumpet as Richard Davis fills in on the bass. Movement, progression, and grooves are the name of the game under Dolphy’s direction as Tony Williams on percussion and the irreplicable Bobby Hutcherson plays the vibraphone.
Using a direct quote from Dolphy when speaking about working with Hutcherson, Dolphy describes his work on the Out To Lunch! liner notes as “[Hutcherson’s] vibes have a freer, more open sound than a piano. Pianos seem to control you, Bobby’s vibes seem to open you up.”
Opening the audience is exactly the perfect way to describe Out To Lunch! as the tonality and true beauty of the record comes from the adaptability each musician controls. While the record is under Dolphy’s name, the power of the record is this Titanic of sounds.
The introductory track “Hat And Beard” is the appetizer for the main course. Before soups and salads, “Hat And Beard” is the bread that not so much fills the audience, but wants them salivating for more to come.
The lucid performances from the band become harsh plucks on the bass and clips of horns brazing the listener. The grooves are deep here but as a master carpenter, the vision is always there before the first slice.
Bite-sized entrées become “Something Sweet, Something Tender” and “Gazzelloni” where the first real pieces of jazz come to the palate. Becoming more gorgeous with each step, Dolphy steps away on “Gazzelloni” to push the other members as the focal point. Specifically, Hutcherson and Williams who together are an indirect force of freeform.
Hard to do anything but focus on the two when playing, “Gazzelloni” hits this mark in the last minute of playing where structure fades and the flute from Dolphy attacks and stings like the mighty cobra.
The title track “Out To Lunch” is gorgeous but also becomes filling, like a larger plate of slow-cooked Bolognese. When the meal is in full swing, “Out To Lunch” is chaotic and holds these pockets of aristocratic performance that can become a flurry of noises.
After the crowd dies down, and the audience is left looking at their empty plate; Dolphy takes the hand and decides to summon them to a cocktail with “Straight Up And Down.” One last fiery waltz before the suit is tucked away to the closet and sweat hits the brow.
Five courses over 42 minutes, Out To Lunch! is glorious and surprisingly complex for a five-piece set. The band that Dolphy constructs is formed by leaders for leaders of jazz, each a true genius of their craft and instrument.