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The Best of Eric Dolphy (Remastered)

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Album Review

Eric Dolphy is a perfect example of a jazz musician who lived a tragically short life but had a significant impact. The alto saxman/clarinetist/flutist, who first recorded as a leader in 1960, was only 36 when he died of diabetes-related causes in 1964 — and since then, his work has influenced Dave Liebman, Steve Coleman, Jane Ira Bloom and quite a few others. Thankfully, Dolphy recorded frequently during his stay at Prestige, which is why Fantasy had no problem assembling an ambitious nine-CD box set titled The Complete Prestige Recordings. For the seasoned Dolphy enthusiast, that lavish release is well-worth owning, but for the casual listener, The Best of Eric Dolphy would be a more appropriate purchase. Focusing on his 19-month association with Prestige in 1961 and 1962, this 78-minute CD underscores the fact that Dolphy had one foot in the avant-garde and the other in post-bop and hard bop. Dolphy shows his appreciation of Ornette Coleman's breakthroughs on the cerebral "Out There," but a less radical sense of swing asserts itself on the Charlie Parker-ish "Miss Ann," the vibrant "Booker's Waltz" and a tender performance of Rodgers & Hart's "Glad to Be Unhappy"." Although it isn't difficult to pinpoint Dolphy's influences — who range from Parker and Jackie McLean to John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman — he was a distinctive, recognizable player in his own right, and his individuality shined through whether he was on alto sax, bass clarinet or flute. The Best of Eric Dolphy is far from the last word on Dolphy's Prestige output, but for those who aren't ready for The Complete Prestige Recordings, this collection can be an excellent starting point.


Born: 20 June 1928 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s

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 (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...
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