Saturday, 13 May 2017

Eric Dolphy / Status Seeking (oh yes, it's a material world)


Album Of The Day: The Quest by Mal Waldron - with Eric Dolphy (alto sax, clarinet); Booker Ervin (tenor sax); Ron Carter (cello); Joe Benjamin (bass); Charles Persip (drums) I need hardly tell you it's sheer quality and in fact, should you know your Jazz, needn't say a thing. Just that: has it ever struck you how insane/insanely brilliant Eric Dolphy was? The way he flies into Status Seeking like Charlie 'Bird' Parker busting out of Camarillo State Hospital having set fire to the beds before burning everyone's brains by blowing unbelievably...on speed/x10 or, as Miles Davis said of Dolphy, like someone was standing on his foot (ouch).

Recorded two years after the 1959 publication of Vance Packard's book...from which he probably got the title idea...

...the track suggests not only the pace of urban American life but the psycho-frantic state of mind in pursuit of social status - 'post-business school material man seeks nuclear family with whom to share the American Dream'. Yet Eric Dolphy and his sound was both the antithesis of stable normality (default success setting) and the epitome of CIA-backed/sanctioned 'freedom' in opposition to Commie social confinement. The Cold War there, whilst in the streets things were hotting up for black America (Don't even march quietly, niggah! Just stay at the back of the bus and in your own damned dining area!).  

Or as Skull Snaps put it on their classic Funk tune from '73:
'Don’t make a fuss. (what you gonna do)
Just step, To the back of the bus.'

Best we all know our place in society - well, what are you going to do? Let's see: look around at the things people have and want what's missing from your life (bigger house, car etc), envy the successful artist and want it for yourself, envy the intellect of others (read more and try). And on. All around people with more than you - the bastards! Or be proud of what you are and have (assuming you're not down and out). You need wings just to keep above all the shit, to paraphrase Allen Ginsberg. The shit, that is, that threatens to render you a low-status social failure! 


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