Eric Dolphy (featuring Booker Little): Bee Vamp
Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet)
At The Five Spot, Vol. 1 (PRCD-30656)
Composed by Booker Little.
Recorded: live at the Five Spot, New York, July 16, 1961
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Booker Little's "Bee Vamp" is an exercise in chordal suspension containing a back-and-forth between two short chord progressions. Little swings hard, sometimes with melancholy, but always technically astonishing and advanced in his harmonic conception. With his own solo, Eric Dolphy is practically rewriting the playbook on the bass clarinet, using its bawdy tone to walk the line between tonal and atonal. Waldron's piano being a little off-tune on the high notes has the unintended effect of adding to the overall slight dissonance of the song. Blackwell performs a vital function in holding together the rhythm through the 2-part line, and his traditional press roll adapts amazingly well to the highly modern style played on this date.
This song showcased the skills of a quintet traditionally structured while straining to break out of tradition. Had Little not tragically died a mere three months later, we might have seen the great promise made by this performance fulfilled. As it stands, "Bee Vamp" is a marvelous testament to the "new thing" going on in jazz at that time.
Reviewer: S. Victor Aaron