Multi-reedsman Eric Dolphy literally played it relatively safe on OUTWARD BOUND, his 1960 debut album, crafting more of a particularly explosive - and sometimes very humorous - hard bop set than anything predictive of his later avant-garde efforts. That, along with the first-rate lineup of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pianist Jaki Byard, bassist George Tucker and veteran bebop trapsman Roy Haynes, helps to make this dynamic and inventive mix of original and covered material as perfect an introduction to Dolphy for the contemporary listener as it was for the jazz world as a whole nearly half a century ago.
Jumping right in with the slippery, blistering "GW," this date wastes no time in announcing the arrival of a uniquely capable and individual alto saxophonist, whose gifts are promptly put into even bolder perspective by his effortless switch to the haunting bass clarinet for a witty, almost vocalized rendition of the oft-visited "On Green Dolphin Street." "Les" and "245" are both Dolphy originals featuring more of his molten sax work with fine accompaniment from all aboard.
Things slow down and sweeten up on "Glad to Be Unhappy," with Dolphy offering a heart-wrenchingly beautiful flute performance while Hubbard lays out. Back to bass clarinet for the closing "Miss Toni," an upbeat bopper which sounds almost traditional after the more mercurial preceding numbers. This upgraded CD reissue adds three bonus cuts - the flash-fingered flute workout "April Fool" and lengthier alternate takes of "GW" and "245." All are well worth hearing and add greatly to the pleasures of this inspired and fruitful session.
Dolphy's life and career were, alas, to be tragically truncated barely four years after OUTWARD BOUND set him in flight; but the energy and enthusiasm so present in this classic recording are in no way compromised by the sad fate of its creator. A must for any jazz fan, completist or casual.