Eric Dolphy was a true original with his own distinctive styles on alto, flute, and bass clarinet. His music fell into the "avant-garde" category yet he did not discard chordal improvisation altogether. Eric’s work was greatly admired by his contemporaries, even imitated by some. Beside Mingus, Dolphy has played and/or recorded with Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Gunther Schuller and Oliver Nelson; when you consider the incredible range of the players encompassed in all this, it’s amazing to realize that he’s performed at the same time or other with most of the jazz avant-garde, and much of the mainstream with equal skill.
While most of the other "free jazz" players sounded very serious in their playing, Dolphy's solos often came across as ecstatic and exuberant His improvisations utilized very wide intervals, a variety of nonmusical speechlike sounds, and its own logic. Although the alto was his main axe,
Dolphy was the first flutist to move beyond bop and he largely introduced the bass clarinet to jazz as a solo instrument. The noted jazz critic Martin Willaims found Eric an exciting tone colorist whose technical dexterity was practically unmatched, an imaginatively advanced improviser, and a vital alternative to the melodic clichés and rhythmic orthodoxy of the hardbop mainstream, etc.
Eric Dolphy first recorded while with Roy Porter & His Orchestra (1948-1950) in Los Angeles. And late in 1961, he was part of the John Coltrane Quintet. Dolphy’s defining moment as a recording artist, composer and band leader came in 1964, when he recorded on Blue Note Records, “Out To Lunch,” featuring Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams on drums. This classic album has been constantly selling for over 40 years; it invokes a very strong reaction in the hearer, and continues to gain new admirers all over the world. Unfortunately, Dolphy died very suddenly from a diabetic coma at the age of 36.
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