Harold Danko

Prestigious: A Tribute to Eric Dolphy

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This ambitious quintet session led by pianist and arranger Harold Danko covers ten compositions by the late Eric Dolphy, whose works have only been recorded on a sporadic basis since his death in 1964 and rarely, if ever, make up an entire release (Jerome Harris' Hidden in Plain View came close). The rhythm section includes bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, with tenor saxophonist Rich Perry and trumpeter Dave Ballou. Perry has the greatest challenge on the date, as he has to come across as effectively as the composer while utilizing only one instrument versus Dolphy's alto sax, flute, and formidable bass clarinet. Fortunately, the object of the CD is to explore new paths through these pieces rather than attempt re-creations of the original recordings by Dolphy (which would be rather pointless since all of Dolphy's Prestige sessions are readily available). The opener, "Les," captures the excitement of Dolphy's version, with the leader darting in and out on piano as Perry and Ballou interweave contrasting lines. Since "17 West" was from a pianoless date, Danko chooses to strum the piano strings throughout the piece, creating an interesting effect behind Ballou's muted horn and Perry's dancing tenor. "G.W." stays much closer to the original, but the group handles its tricky unorthodox line with nary a misfire. "Serene," one of Dolphy's prettiest ballads (which is actually a disguised blues), becomes more spacious and subtle with Danko's change of its meter. "Miss Ann" is almost unrecognizable during its introduction, as the theme is considerably fragmented before Perry and Ballou begin playing snippets of it and quickly bring it into shape. Danko's excellent liner notes add to the value of this worthy tribute to Eric Dolphy, the composer.

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