Eric Dolphy

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Eric Allan Dolphy (June 20, 1928 – June 29, 1964) was an American jazz alto saxophonist, flautist, and bass clarinetist. He also played, on a few occasions the clarinet and baritone saxophone. Dolphy was one of several multi-instrumentalists to gain prominence in the 1960s. He was also the first important bass clarinet soloist in jazz, and among the earliest significant flute soloists. His improvisational style was characterized by the use of wide intervals, in addition to using an array of extended techniques to reproduce human- and animal-like effects which almost literally made his instruments speak. Although Dolphy's work is sometimes classified as free jazz, his compositions and solos were often rooted in conventional (if highly abstracted) tonal bebop harmony.



Early life

Dolphy was born in Los Angeles and was educated at Los Angeles City College. He performed locally for several years, most notably as a member of bebop big bands led by Gerald Wilson and Roy Porter. On early recordings, he occasionally played soprano clarinet and baritone saxophone, as well as his main instrument, the alto saxophone. Dolphy finally had his big break as a member of Chico Hamilton's quintet. With the group he became known to a wider audience and was able to tour extensively through 1959, when he parted ways with Hamilton and moved to New York City.

Early partnerships

John Coltrane had gained an audience and critical notice with Miles Davis's quintet. Although Coltrane's quintets with Dolphy (including the Village Vanguard and Africa/Brass sessions) are now legendary, they provoked Down Beat magazine to brand Coltrane and Dolphy's music as 'anti-jazz'. Coltrane later said of this criticism: "they made it appear that we didn't even know the first thing about music (...) it hurt me to see [Dolphy] get hurt in this thing."[1]

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