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Au rapport : Kent Carter à BerlinSpéciale Agitation FrIIteEn librairie : Eric Dolphy de Guillaume Belhomme
A la question : interviewsAu rapport : impressions de concertsEn théorie : l'improvisation par l'écrit : John Butcher & Evan Parker

Eric Dolphy : Strenght with Unity (1964)


One of the least known of Dolphy's many works is Strength with Unity. Never issued commercially, this recording from the 1964 Once Festival in Ann Arbor is performed by Dolphy on alto, with the Bob James Trio (James on piano, Ron Brooks on bass, and Bob Pozar on drums) and a brass ensemble rehearsed by University of Michigan professor Louis Stout. Dolphy may have arranged it for 8 french horns, echoing his brass-heavy arranging for Africa Brass and the concert with the University of Illinois band.

This is a 10 minute long performance featuring a loping A theme in 5/4 and a beautiful bridge in 3/4, with swooping horn fills like those in Africa. Graham Connah noted that the tune is reminiscent of In the Blues from Copenhagen in September 1961, over an Eb diminished with a major 7th chord here as opposed to F# minor in In the Blues. A few weeks before this performance, Dolphy played some similar phrases with the New York Philharmonic in a very brief solo.

The introduction uses smeared harmonies by the brass followed by Dolphy, ending in the lower register to set the somewhat ominous tone. One interpretation of the composition, in terms of the title, is that the A theme represents Strength and the bridge Unity. Dolphy's solo is accompanied by the brass heavily during the first chorus. He then plays passionately, racing headlong, with mainly Pozar's insistent backing. On the final chorus he uses a lengthy series of rapid short phrases, before the brass return with an interesting inversion of the theme, and James solos.

Dolphy's second solo is remarkable, a classic example of what he could do in terms of maintaining conventional technique while extending it greatly. He ends it at the bottom of his horn again, his time splitting tones slightly. The ending of this performance is weak, perhaps because it wasn't rehearsed.

I know of two other performances of this composition: at a concert organized by Marcello Piras and Stefano Zenni, featuring Gianluigi Trovesi on alto, with arrangements by Gunther Schuller, in 2000 in Pescara Italy ; and by Graham Connah and friends at a Dolphy tribute concert at Yoshi's in Oakland California in 2003. There may or may not have been a performance in 2008 at Merkin Hall by a band led by Russ Johnson, with Roy Nathanson, Myra Melford, George Schuller, and Brad Jones. I look forward to hearing this wonderful piece played many more times.

Eric Dolphy : Strenght with Unity
Enregistrement : 1964.
Alan Saul © Le son du grisli


D'Augusta, Georgie, l'ophtalmologue Alan Saul anime Outward Bound!, incontournable site internet pour qui s'intéresse à l'œuvre d'Eric Dolphy.

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