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The Legacy of a 90 Year Old Jazz Legend:
Eric Dolphy

Blog
The Legacy of a 90 Year Old Jazz Legend: Eric Dolphy

02.08.2018

Article: Cem Kayıran
Translation: Yetkin Nural
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

2018 marks the 90th year for one of the most important names within avant-garde jazz, Erich Dolphy. Despite his death at the young age of 36, Dolphy left behind a musical legacy that inspired generations. Here is a look at the highlights of Dolphy’s pioneering career:

*Born in 1928 June in Los Angeles, Eric Allan Dolphy was a trailblazer in various fields of music history. Bound to become one of the pioneers of early period avant-garde jazz with his unique style, Dolphy’s musical journey started off with the harmonica that he played in his childhood years and continued with clarinet soon after.

*Dolphy received a scholarship from University of Southern California School of Music during his first years of high school and, with his parent’s full support, could focus his energies on music. He worked with various bands at the studio neighbouring his house and made his first known recordings with Roy Porter before joining the army in 1950.

*By the end of 1950’s, when Dolphy was playing in drummer Chico Hamilton’s quartet, he made the decision to move to New York City, which marked a new period in his career. After meeting fellow Californian Charles Mingus in the Big Apple, Dolphy did lot recordings with the legendary bassist and developed his own unique style.

*Always on the lookout for new and uncommon ideas, Dolphy released his debut solo album, Outward Bound, in 1960 from New Jazz Records.

*Another name that left a mark on Dolphy’s career was John Coltrane, of whom Dolphy enjoyed a friendship with since his Los Angeles years. The duo managed to translate their shared ideas about music into actual expression; these Dolphy-Coltrane collaborations were defined as “anti-jazz” by the period’s music media.

*Until his death at 36, Dolphy worked with many musicians as an orchestra leader. Some of the names that accompanied Dolphy both in recordings and on stage were Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Ron Carter.

*As one of the first sax players who released improvised solo recordings, along with Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, Dolphy was the taboo breaker when it came to using brass instruments, especially the bass clarinet as solo instruments. With the animalistic sounds he created with his instrument and his compositions that surprised the audience with striking, out-of-nowhere sounds, Dolphy became one of the heroes of avant-garde, which reached its peak during the 60’s. His musical legacy is still inspiring to in various productions today.

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