Eric Dolphy
April 21, 2012 9:56 PM   Subscribe

Eric Dolphy [auto-music] 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 (although the relationship of his notes to the chords was often pretty abstract). 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 (influencing James Newton) and he largely introduced the bass clarinet to jazz as a solo instrument. He was also one of the first (after Coleman Hawkins) to record unaccompanied horn solos, preceding Anthony Braxton by five years. - AllMusic (previously: 1, 2)
posted by Trurl (18 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Out To Lunch! still blows my mind.
posted by bardic at 10:27 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

he was incredible. coincidentally i was just checking out this clip of dolphy and charles mingus in oslo in 1964 - crazy good stuff.
posted by facetious at 10:48 PM on April 21, 2012

This one (also Dolphy/Mingus, but this time in Belgium) is amazing as well.

I used to play the bass clarinet, and it's an absolute pig of an instrument to get a decent sound out of - way harder than a saxophone. If I'd heard some of this music back then I might have tried harder.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 10:58 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did get pretty good sound out of the bass clarinet--even though I had a cheap, plastic instrument. Sadly, it was the only thing I managed to do well, and my instrument somehow began to deteriorate in college anyway. It's so painful hearing the bass clarinet in random songs unexpectedly; I'm still so attached to the sound.

Eric Dolphy will always be one of my favorite jazz artists. My middle school band director gave me a burned CD with his bass clarinet solos on it, and I still listen to it from time to time. When you can get that rich, sweet sound out of the bass clarinet, it's positively intoxicating.
posted by myelin sheath at 11:12 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

It was a great loss to American music that Eric Dolphy died so young. What he did was so amazing and incredibly promising: he would've been one of the giants of jazz, I believe.

Speaking of the bass clarinet, one guy who has taken the instument and expanded its vocabulary in really interesting and satisfying ways over the years is my old buddy and sometimes collaborator Ned Rothenberg. I could only find one clip at YouTube that features his bass clarinet playing, which is unfortunately not really clearly indicative of the amazing range and control of the instrument that he has, but, anyway, Ned Rothenberg/Evan Parker duo.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:44 PM on April 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Another artist of the bass clarinet is Bennie Maupin
posted by quazichimp at 12:52 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whoops...this should be the correct link for
Bennie Maupin
posted by quazichimp at 12:56 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Eric's responsible for my favourite version of my favourite standard. The part at the end where he and Freddie restate the theme (same link, just fast forwarded to the close) kills me every time. Especially the single snare crack at 4:51 and Eric's twist of the melody just thereafter. Big, big fan of his.
posted by GamblingBlues at 3:17 AM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

His work on Oliver Nelson's "The Blues and the Abstract Truth" is excellent.
posted by rudster at 3:40 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dolphy had a distinctive, personal sound on all his instruments. It's a real shame he died so young and left behind a relatively small catalog, but fortunately, just about all the music he recorded stands up very well to repeated listening...
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 6:26 AM on April 22, 2012

When I started getting into jazz a couple of years ago, it was Out to Lunch! that sucked me in. Dolphy was amazing at straddling the popular and avant garde in a way that seemed completely natural.
posted by dfan at 7:48 AM on April 22, 2012

Eric Dolphy was one of my saxophone heroes when I was learning to play way back when in 6th grade. I think I wore this box set out I played it so much. He still is my favorite jazz flute player, and I had transcribed some of his flute playing back in the day. I remember reading in some liner notes somewhere (possibly in the Great Concert set) that he said he was inspired by birds singing, and that's where much of his sound came from. I can totally believe it. He got such a rich, powerful sound out of every instrument he played, and apparently did it without effort. He was born for playing woodwinds.
posted by Eekacat at 8:47 AM on April 22, 2012

I just put on The Quest to accompany my first coffee of the day, and lo and behold here is this thread.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:03 AM on April 22, 2012

I actually learned about Dolphy from Frank Zappa's Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue. Zappa was good that way. Sucker made you learn stuff.
posted by Splunge at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dolphy and Booker Ervin behind Ron Carter's cello on Mal Waldron's "Duquility."
posted by GamblingBlues at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2012

I'm appreciating all the bass clarinet links! I also used to play-- I was never an assertive child, but as a fourth-grade clarinet player, I saw a high schooler with a bass clarinet and said "I want to play THAT!"

myelin sheath, you described the feeling perfectly
posted by Baethan at 5:46 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two Aprils ago LeMoyne College, here in Syracuse NY, dedicated a statue of Eric Dolphy.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 8:43 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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