The Complete Works of Eric Dolphy, a meticulous homage to the compositions of the late saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist by the all-horn quartet Potsa Lotsa (the band's name is not as strange as it sounds: It's the title of a Dolphy tune), would be an impressive piece of scholarship if were simply a smartly arranged program. But alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard has structured the album to provide unexpected twists and turns, against-the-grain solos, and emphases that call attention to the more architectural aspects of Dolphy's writing.
The music takes very little directly from Dolphy's soloing, and that's probably a good thing. The saxophonist's bop phrasing and articulation, full of loops and vocalizations, has in the past yielded mostly clumsy imitators. Letting the compositions be the launch pad frees the soloists to use their own voices.
Which, as it turns out, they do very well; Nickolaus Neuser plays a strangely old-timey solo on the 9/4 metered "Hat and Beard," as trombonist Gerhard Gschlossl lends support with a technically impressive ostinato figure. "Out There" is played very cleanly, with Eberhard's big-toned alto cutting through the arrangement, moving into a brief unaccompanied statement, then being joined by Gschlossl. Brainy it may be, but it's visceral too. There's a lot of material on The Complete Works of Eric Dolphy (27 tunes in all), and, not surprisingly, it encompasses a variety of approaches. But I think the album works best when heard whole, allowing the wide range of Dolphy's material, Eberhard's arranging skills, and the four players inventiveness and execution to wash over you. I particularly like the muted trumpet and trombone on "Out to Lunch," the stately precision of "Something Sweet, Something Tender," and the brass/sax call and response of "Gazzeloni, with Patrick Braun's muscular tenor. But different tracks will appeal to different tastes; Eberhard has given real care to each composition, and there are no toss-offs.