NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t


KEVIN WHITEHEAD: 1964 was a great year for cutting-edge jazz records like ‘s Spiritual Unity, ‘s A Love Supreme and ‘s Point of Departure. But none sounds as far ahead of its time as ‘s masterpiece Out to Lunch, recorded for Blue Note on Feb. 25, 1964. Half a century later it still sounds crazy in a good way. The organized mayhem starts with Dolphy’s tunes, often featuring wide, wide leaps in the melody and ratchet-gear rhythms. His composition “” was inspired by the careful walk of a drunk striving to stay upright. He improvised with that same kind of angular energy, and an excitable tone like a goosed goose. The heart of Out to Lunch is its singular vibes-bass-and-drums rhythm trio, starting with ‘ 18-year-old drum wonder . The following year, Williams would propose to Davis’ band that they play “anti-music” — the opposite of what anyone would expect. Williams is already testing that idea on Out to Lunch, rethinking the drum set’s components; his hi-hat alone makes this one of his classics. On “Hat and Beard,” the title a nod to , Williams finds myriad ways to provoke Dolphy’s yawping bass clarinet, an instrument Dolphy had pretty much to himself as a soloist. […] Dolphy’s creativity was exploding early in 1964, and he was finding more players who could keep up. He was looking forward to spending a year in Europe. But even before the album came out, he was dead of diabetic complications at age 36. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A With Fresh Air Jazz Critic Kevin Whitehead