Eric Dolphy Day

June 20, 1928 – June 29, 1964

Parkeriana (two versions)

Alto saxophonist, flautist, and bass clarinetist Eric Allan Dolphy, Jr. was born on June 20, 1928, in Los Angeles, California.

His parents were immigrants from Panama. Less than a month after picking up the clarinet at the age of six, he was already playing in the school’s orchestra.

Chico Hamilton gave him his first major professional break.

In 1959, Dolphy moved to New York City, where he played with Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman (on the “Free Jazz” session), and Booker Little.

He took formal instruction from music teacher Lloyd Reese and continued his studies after high school at Los Angeles City College for a short period.

Gigging locally, he soon became proficient on alto and baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, and flute.

After returning home in 1953 following military service, Eric Dolphy started performing with Buddy Collette, who suggested that Eric join Chico Hamilton in New York.

In New York, the talented reed player Eric had the opportunity to perform with many legendary jazz musicians, including Freddie Hubbard, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Max Roach, Oliver Nelson, Scott LaFaro, and Eddie Blackwell.

He appeared on Ornette Coleman’s 1960 album “Free Jazz” and was also featured on four John Coltrane releases: “Africa Brass,” “Impressions,” “Live at the Village Vanguard,” and “Ole” in 1961 and ’62.

Dolphy would go on to record and tour with Charles Mingus, appearing on the classic LPs “Mingus!”, “Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus,” and “The Town Hall Concert,” among others.

In addition to his extensive work as a sideman, Eric Dolphy performed and recorded as a leader, beginning with the 1960 releases “Out There,” “Outward Bound,” “Far Cry,” and “Magic” with Booker Little.

After the completion of his 1964 European tour with the “Charles Mingus Sextet,” Eric had plans to settle down in Europe with his fiancée, but fate had other plans.

On June 29, 1964, Eric Dolphy suffered a stroke caused by an undiagnosed diabetic condition and died in Berlin at the young age of thirty-six. That year, he was inducted into Down Beat Magazine’s Hall of Fame.

“Whatever I’d say would be an understatement. I can only say my life was made much better by knowing him. He was one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, as a man, a friend, and a musician.” – John Coltrane on Eric Dolphy

“When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone, in the air. You can never capture it again.” – Eric Dolphy

Parkeriana – Paris 1964