Café Mouffe: It’s Eric Dolphy Day!

Never mind the swallows at Capistrano or the buzzards in Hinckley. In my seasonal calendar, winter ends when I find a patch of mud by my back door. I stepped in it this morning, and even though it will freeze up tighter than the bark on a beech tree tonight, I can legitimately certify this to be Eric Dolphy Day!

I learned this arcane tradition from college friends from Syracuse who cut classes and partied on the day enough snow melted to reveal mud. Most of them didn’t care at all about Eric, but I venerate the master on his day. I beseeched the Muse once to give me poems that “grunt and moan like Eric Dolphy in the owl-light.” His legendary solo performance of “God Bless the Child” inspired that line. The sound is chthonic, like the orgy songs of the Maenads or Walt Whitman’s barbaric yawp.

You can no longer access”God Bless the Child” on YouTube, thanks to copyright miserliness. Listen to Eric’s bass clarinet solo with Charles Mingus in Oslo (1964), and you’ll want to get down with the Maenads, too.

Dolphy joined the John Coltrane Quintet for Impressions. No other documentation accompanies the clip, but the time is probably 1961-62, and the venue European. Dolphy plays second horn on Coltrane’s creative breakthrough, but his alto matches the tenor with inventiveness and melodic force. Listen to them take it home after McCoy Tyner’s piano solo. It isn’t two horn players trading bars — it’s the counterpoint of harmonic geniuses.

Encore: 245 and GW are excellent takes from a 1961 Berlin broadcast of the Eric Dolphy Quintet. And there is more Dolphy with Mingus out there.

Café Mouffe opens on Fridays at 3:00 p.m. Please drop by for a listen and a chat. Sometimes the embedded videos don’t work here due to bandwidth constraints, but you’ll always find links to video sources in the set notes. Try them. If you’re curious about the Mouffe, here’s the original idea behind it’s creation.

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