Eric Dolphy - Iron Man (1968), 8/10

Iron Man was recorded in 1963 despite its 1968 release, during the same sessions as Conversations. It is also daring and experimental in spite of its early conception. It is a bit 'out there' and all over the place but a much more enjoyable listen for someone who relishes Dolphy's more off the wall individual performances. Not to mention his rendition of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" is masterful and breathes new life into the composition. Extra props to J.C. Moses and his brutal and inspired performances particularly on the tile track and "Mandrake" where Bobby Hutcherson's vibraphone keeps things fresh as well, adding a unique flavor in place of the traditional piano for much of the record. It does not share much of the appeal of Dolphy’s more well known records, but rather has its own special flavor of sound along with its different arrangement style. The performers are delightfully free and explore some out of the pocket interplay which is as refreshing as it is pleasing to the ear, especially successful on tracks like “Mandrake” and “Burning Spear”. The pacing is flawless, as the opening title track flows seamlessly into the also energizing “Mandrake”, straight into the wonderous ballad “Come Sunday” for a pallet cleansing turn of elegance, then back to an electric set of improvisations and a poetically exquisite closer in its ode to Charlie Parker. Although during an initial listen, especially coming from records like Out to Lunch or even the earlier Out There, Iron Man may sound unpolished; a mixed affair. But it is a recording of deferred delight, bringing forth more thrill with each listen and more thrill with each unearthed detail. Hutcherson’s previously mentioned vibraphone adds a unique structural component, as does Eddie Khan’s effulgent contributions on bass and Prince Lasha’s radiant flute performances. One of the great jazz legend’s greatest and timeless recordings; surprisingly approachable yet enduringly rewarding.