One of the major voices in the highly political Asian improvisation movement of the 1980s and '90s, baritonist Fred Ho on this memorable CD performs everything from modernized swing and Charles Mingus-influenced ensembles to short solo baritone pieces and selections that mix together Western and Eastern instruments. He utilizes two ensembles: the 11-piece Journey Beyond the West Orchestra (which includes such instruments as the sona, erbu, and san shuen along with more conventional jazz horns and rhythm, plus occasionally the somewhat jarring Chinese soprano vocals of Cindy Zuoxin Wang) and the five-piece Afro-Asian Music Ensemble.
Other Aspects is unlike any other title in Eric Dolphy's catalog. The startling 15-minute composition "Jim Crow," recorded in 1962 with an unidentified rhythm section and operatic singer, shows his embracing of 20th century classical composition. Strong Indian influence is heard on 1960's "Improvisations and Tukras," featuring Dolphy's flute mixed with tabla and tamboura. The final three pieces were also recorded in 1960: "Inner Flight 1 and 2" are solo flute pieces, while "Dolphy'n" is a collaboration with bassist Ron Carter featuring Dolphy on alto. This music remained in the private collection of Dolphy's friend Hale Smith until the recordings were handed over to Blue Note in 1985. While Other Aspects is fascinating, and in its own way essential, it should be one of the final discs obtained for your Dolphy library.
On the fine all-round A Better Understanding session, Sonny Fortune is mostly in the spotlight. Although generally playing alto, Fortune is also heard on soprano and flute. In fact, the opening 6/4 romp, "Mind Games," has Fortune overdubbed on both soprano and flute. Some of the modal pieces (such as "Awakening") sound like they could have composed by McCoy Tyner although Fortune actually wrote all nine selections.