Let’s remember jazz saxophonist Eric Dolphy, who would have turned 88 today. Over his 30 albums as a bandleader, Dolphy showed an amazing versatility and development, emerging from his be-bop roots into some wonderfully accessible avant garde creations, like his last, Out to Lunch, for Blue Note.
People celebrate that album as a classic of new jazz for good reason. It’s innovative and gritty instead of abstract and simply free for its own sake, as Dolphy seems to transfigure the idea of melody rather than rejecting it out of hand. It’s simply beautiful and compelling, and worth having in your library if you don’t yet.
Dolphy’s death at 36 from diabetes in 1964 in Berlin was especially tragic because it wasn’t from typically regarded circumstances—he was substance-free and didn’t even smoke.
“He was a musical centipede,” notes drummer Han Bennink in the documentary below. “I could hear that he could do everything.”