Mary LaRose Ensemble: Mary LaRose, vocals, lyrics; Jeff Lederer, clarinets, arrangements; Patricia Brennan, vibraphone; Michael Formanek, bass; Matt Wilson, drums. Saturday, October 9, 7:30pm. Location: IMA, 65 Cape St. (Rt. 112), Goshen, MA. Single tickets: $15 at www.jazzshares.org or at the door.
Jazz vocalist Mary LaRose releases her fifth recording as a leader with a focus on the compositions of Eric Dolphy in Out Here, due for release on the Little (i) Music label in the fall of 2021. She is joined by a stellar ensemble including Jeff Lederer on clarinets and arrangements, Tomeka Reid on cello, Patricia Brennan on vibraphone, Nick Dunston on bass and Matt Wilson on drums.
Mary has pushed the boundaries of the tradition of Jazz Vocalese into the post-bop world for many years, writing lyrics to the compositions and improvisations of Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, and most often, Eric Dolphy. “I have felt connected to the music of Eric Dolphy since my earliest days in jazz, especially from his presence on the Blues and the Abstract Truth recording on which his solos seems to just jump off the record in a way that was both shocking, and playful” says LaRose. Her previous recordings including performances of Dolphy material with jazz groups, as well as with the Brooklyn Rider string quartet, but Out Here represents her first full album of Dolphy tunes.
“This is more than an homage, or tribute album” say LaRose, “on this recording we really wanted to celebrate Dolphy’s spirit by celebrating our own musical sprits within the framework of these incredible tunes”. In preparing for the recording, LaRose and Lederer spent time doing research at the incredible Dolphy collection at the Library of Congress. “To hold the manuscript versions of a composition like “Hat and Beard” in my own (gloved) hands was a thrilling experience” says Lederer. “In addition to understanding his compositional intentions even better, the manuscript collection also revealed many chamber-like settings of the music Dolphy had conceived of, some recorded and others existing only on paper”. Lederer’s settings for LaRose’s voice on Out Here reflect this experience of Dolphy as composer for chamber ensembles, while leaving lots of room for the imagination of the incredible collection of players assembled.
As a recognition of Dolphy’s Panamanian roots, and his life-long interest in musics of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora LaRose has included here “Music Matador”, with a lyric that pays another tribute her guest, Salsa trombonist Jimmy Bosch, joined also by the percussionist Bobby Sanabria.
Closing the record is Mal Waldron’s “Warm Canto”, on which Dolphy was featured on the clarinet in the original recording. “I have so much love for Dolphy’s rare work as a clarinetist in addition to the bass clarinet of course”, says Lederer. “I chose very early on in this project to play only clarinet”. Lederer invites two of his former clarinet students to join him on “Warm Canto” while LaRose sings the three-part counterpoint with herself wordlessly.
In addition to being a forward-looking jazz vocalist, LaRose is an accomplished visual artist whose work adorns the cover of Out Here. Bundled with this recording, Little (i) Music is also releasing a book of LaRose’s artwork, “Out There”, which contains her portraits of many of the leading saxophonists of the 1960’s. The book springs from her commission to create a portrait of Yusef Lateef on the occasion of his 100th centenary in 2020. Inspired by the project Larose went on to create over 40 images of other saxophonists of the period who shared in the unique sound and spirit of the time, including Dolphy. “In these images, I hope that my line and sense of color reflect some of the energy of these great artists”, says LaRose.
“Warm Canto” includes a LaRose reading of a “Bone poem” by contemporary Haiku master Patricia Donegan. The text states “When I die…take my thigh bone gently. Make a flower vase of it”. On Out Here, LaRose and her ensemble take the bones of the compositions of Eric Dolphy, and make something altogether new of them.