Eric was simply otherworldly in his approach, especially on bass clarinet and alto saxophone. A number of jazz titans held him near and dear, including Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, with whom some of his most stunning work was achieved. No one sounds remotely like Eric Dolphy. In his improvisations, he could be intensely intimate and tender, or utterly explosive and groundbreaking, or both, often in rapid succession.
Upon hearing of Eric’s death, at 36, Mingus said:
” Usually, when a man dies, you remember—or you say you remember—only the good things about him. With Eric, that’s all you could remember. I don’t remember any drags he did to anybody. The man was absolutely without a need to hurt.”
Dolphy’s shocking death came shortly before the release of his masterpiece Out to Lunch. He was supposedly very interested in playing in Albert Ayler’s group, and was even preparing to play with Cecil Taylor.