Saturday, January 17, 2009

Baris Manço & Kurtalan Ekspres, "Hal Hal" (1981) & Eric Dolphy, "Something Sweet, Something Tender" (1964)

Baris was a legend in his native Turkey, the founder and prime mover in the Anatolian rock movement that began with revved-up electric renditions of traditional Turkish folksongs, heavily under the sway of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, et al and eventually came to include trax as flat funky as "Hal Hal," his 1981 single with Kurtalan Ekspres, the backing band that accompanied him from '73 until his death. The combination of Middle Eastern tonality, Americanized funk breaks, and muezzin-style singing is astonishing.

After mentioning Eric Dolphy under the Ayler post, it seemed only right to supply some of his extraordinary music for those unaware. A bass clarinetist, flautist, and alto saxophonist, Dolphy came to prominence in Charles Mingus' big bands of the late '50s, and the mark of Charlie's swooning, slightly surreal lines in ballads ("I X Love," "Celia") is certainly discernable on "Something Sweet, Something Tender." The cut comes from his 1964 masterpiece Out to Lunch!, which I would have to deem required listening: Dolphy's compositional sense is an unprecedented collision of Thelonious Monk and Edgard Varèse with Salvador Dalí and film noir, and the sensitivity and raw innovation of the ensemble work (the dearly departed Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson's spectral and funky vibraphone substitute for a piano, the estimable Richard Davis on bass, and a seventeen-year-old Tony Williams on drums) has yet to be bested anywhere in jazz or improvised music as a whole. I've long found that Dolphy's solo lines strike me more as shapes and figures than melodies, per se; the incredible velocity and tonal plasticity of his playing blurs the contours of "melody" until it becomes a physical figure, a chunk of sonic architecture wrought from the air.

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