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New Left Review I/26, July-August 1964


Alan Beckett

Eric Dolphy

‘Music is a reflection of everything. And it’s universal. Like you can hear somebody from across the world, another country. You don’t even know them, but they’re in your own back yard, you know?’

Eric Dolphy’s public career in jazz was regrettably short. Having gained his early musical experience in the vicinity of Los Angeles, his birth-place, he first came to public notice when he joined the Chico Hamilton quintet in the late 1950’s. (He plays flute in Hamilton’s sequence in the film Jazz on A Summer’s Day.) With this group he arrived in New York where he allied himself enthusiastically with the jazz avant-garde. He had met Ornette Coleman earlier and admitted that Coleman had taught him ‘a direction’ while denying any more direct influence. Parenthetically one should note that the greater part of Dolphy’s playing seems to be related to a chordal base and that he rarely, if ever, makes use of Coleman’s ‘pantonal’ method. Like Cecil Taylor, however, Dolphy seemed intent upon extending jazz tonality to its farthest possible limits.

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