Eric Dolphy was an extraordinary improviser and innovator who expanded Jazz beyond the developments of Bebop. He established a long-lasting role in progressive jazz for instruments such as the flute and particularly the bass clarinet. Also excelling on alto saxophone, he made multi-instrumentality a common goal for wind players.
Dolphy was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Panamanian immigrants. He began learning clarinet at age six and played alto saxophone professionally while still in junior high school. He performed locally while serving in the United States Army from 1950 to 1952. While leading his own bands, he caught the attention of drummer Chico Hamilton; he later played in Hamilton's popular quintet during 1958 and 1959.
Dolphy moved to New York, New York and in 1959 joined a band led by jazz bassist Charles Mingus In 1960 and 1961 he recorded a staggering ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience.