Name at birth: Eric Allan Dolphy, Jr.
Eric Dolphy was a multi-instrumentalist and composer who left his mark on jazz music through a series of recordings in the early 1960s, including his 1964 masterpiece, Out To Lunch. A classically trained clarinetist from Los Angeles, he first gained national attention in 1958, playing with Chico Hamilton. Dolphy moved to New York in late 1959, where he became known as a virtuoso on alto sax, bass clarinet and flute, playing bop and free jazz with luminaries such as John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman. As a band leader, Dolphy recorded some of his best known work in 1960 and 1961, including Outward Bound and Out There, and as a sideman he toured with Mingus and Coltrane, and played with Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little and Max Roach. During his career he got just as much criticism as praise for music that pushed the boundaries of chords and structure but maintained a tonal purity. His most famous recordings include Live at the Five Spot (1961), Town Hall Concert (1962, with Mingus), and Olé Coltrane (1961, with Coltrane). Dolphy died in Berlin while on tour, from complications due to undiagnosed diabetes. He was 36 years old.