1928-1964. Virtuoso woodwind player; main horns: alto saxophone, flute, bass clarinet. His career spanned late-40's bebop to 60's free jazz, including stints in legendary Charles Mingus groups; his death came just as he found a generation of players who could grok his (and friend John Coltrane's) unique styles. Node-sized take: Charlie Parker's style (on alto), cut-and-pasted into alien keys and rhythmically askew; he could make a clarinet talk, and a flute sing like a bird.

Eric could sing like an angel with any of the reeds in his mouth. The flutes, the clarinets, the saxes. But oh, the bass clarinet. He's as big as Leonidas (do you know the story of his three hundred?) or Ali, to me. Every time I think of Eric, the beauty and the sadness overwhelm me.

He grew up in LA, a poor kid, and never really made it in the States, despite now-legendary gigs with Mingus, Booker Little and Coltrane. He was quiet, offstage, and they only loved him afterward.

He died in Germany, alone, of an untreated illness related to diabetes, I've seen the grave. They say everyone around him knew he was sick, that after performances, exhausted, he would either collapse or just plow through bowl after bowl of ice cream.

There's a story I heard once, about a visit by the Mingus group to a famous writer's home in somewhere in Europe where he wandered off.. they found him sitting on the grass in the gardens, cooing at the peacocks. They couldn't get him away from those birds...

Anyway, take a minute today, you can spare the time. Look up a photograph of him on the web. Look in those eyes. Find a Dolphy record and wait 'til you're alone to put it on - maybe one of the Five Spot gigs, or a stompin tune with Charlie screaming at him, "Yeah, Yeah!!", or a quiet flute solo like Hi Fly. And just listen...

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