King Eric


When people hear music that touches their soul, you can usually see a reaction of some kind. Whenever I'm in a musical situation, I look to see who's feeling what's going down. Some folks sit quietly and maybe their eyes water. Some close their eyes and try to internalize the experience. Some just smile and nod their head in approval (hopefully). In some music people jump into Mosh Pits and in other music people hold up lighters en mass. (Jazz people are too serious and controlled for that shit).

It's the physical reaction I seek,.because that means what's inside you is resonating strong enough that your body has to react.It's not a choice like,."I think I'll let my head shake in reaction to this music",.it just HAPPENS.The music playing IS what you are on some level,.there's something inside of it that is telling you "this way! over here!",.in a manner where the validity or the truth behind is is not questioned,.it just IS.

In short,..what's that music that makes you DANCE?..Makes your soul just DANCE..

In my favorite movie,.Awakenings,.they play music to help wake people up that have a condition where they simply sleep for most of their lives,.never able to wake up.(Dexter Gordon plays one of the patients!).In my favorite scene,.they keep trying different music to help them wake up,.and this one white guy doesn't react all all until they play HENDRIX,.It's the only music that reaches in beyond his illness.

I bring this up because the only music that really makes me DANCE is Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane.I Love lots of music,.but these 2 guys actually make me get up out the chair and just DANCE.I simply cant hide my reaction to their music every time I hear it,.and I have soul-danced to Trane live at the Vanguard well over 1,000 times,.my desert island record.People on the subway see me doing this all the time,.I just cant help it.Just What is this about? As much as I have written about Trane,.Eric D was right there,.they were BROTHERS.

I have always struggled to explain my relationship to Eric Dolphy's music in words.After listening to him since 1987,.and playing Bass Clarinet without a doubt,.because he set it off,.for about 11 years now,.I have reached the conclusion that I simply have never been the same since the first time I ever heard him.

In 1987 I was 17 and a was fast becoming a fan of jazz,.and had just begun getting a little serious,.renting a videotape to see Trane,.who I knew very little about.(I have several friends today who got to see him live,.but alas,..not me).I had no idea who Eric Dolphy was,.and I was just a trumpet player with one blues scale under my belt.

Then it just happened..

After Trane got down on Impressions,the camera suddenly shifted to this guy on alto who was PLAYING THE IMPOSSIBLE..
What the Hell?!? He was ALL over the horn,.reaching ABOVE and BELOW,.he was talking a language from the future nobody had ever heard..SWEEPING,SWOOPING,and SCOOPING below,.REACHING,PREACHING,AND TEACHING ABOVE.

Eric Dolphy was Dancing,.and I simply would never be the same.


Ornette Coleman's house,..Jam session in progress,..I'm trying like hell to impress OC with my ULTIMATE shit.


My heart falls out of my chest and just hits the ground bleeding on the floor.I'm as open and vulnerable as I have ever been in my life trying to get OC to hear my song,.and something has gone wrong,..horribly wrong as I'M the reason he just STOPPED THE MUSIC.

"You didn't resolve your idea...why?..why would you say something you don't mean? would you stop talking in the middle of a sentence?"

"I know what your sound is,.and now your playing like somebody I don't know,.why?"


Back at Ornette's,.and I run out of ideas,.and do a LONG glissando on the upper register of the bass clarinet,.almost a fifth,.Hodges style..reaching for my vocal thing that Eric set off..


"How can you resolve an idea without notes?"

"But Eric,...."

"That's Eric man,.not you"

At this point OC left the room and brought me back my trumpet from the other room.

"Use this,.and you won't hear that stuff anymore"


It took me several years to answer these question's that OC presented,.and it all comes back to that initial moment when Eric Dolphy basically showed me that "This is what music is to ME"..(Those damn wide intervals don't resolve so easily!)

Having your own language in music is a monumental achievement,.and Eric may have the most personal dialect of them all,.one that wouldn't exist if BIRD didn't exist.I have pursued my own language with an actual focus and purpose thanks to OC,.and the bottom line is that Eric's soul dance has always been right at the very heart of what I would call my ultimate relationship to music.The way he plays the lower register is the reason I had to get a Bass Clarinet,.and why I have always been conflicted in finding the right horn and the right notes FOR ME.I'm still trying to speak with a human voice on the horn sometimes too,.just not around Ornette.

ED did this to me in a matter of seconds from a concert he did in Germany with Trane,.something he may have quickly forgotten about as he was clearly all about continuing his life of music.His music with MINGUS is SO important to me,.something that should be written about at length.Eric was was ready to play with ALBERT before he left tragically.To me Eric is the consummate avant garde player in that his TECHNIQUE surpassed almost anybody in jazz from any period.To play the way he heard music takes a TREMENDOUS amount of chops.Going deeper still there's Elvin in the interview on that video tape saying,."Then John brought in Eric and EVERYTHING changed".(Sonny Fortune told me that playing with Elvin was as close as music will ever get to Sex,.one of Ornette's favorite subjects)

Conclusion:King Eric and Trane are 2 of the main reasons I've dedicated my life to music.(maybe I'll get into the Louis Armstrong portion next)

As I listen to the complete Coltrane at the Vanguard while I write this,.I cant help but mention my life long dream,.playing the same place at a very different time.

Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane stood on that stage at the Vanguard and played music that is the foundation of my musical life.

One day,..

I will stand on that stage myself,.

and sing MY song to the world.

That's my WORD.

**dedicated to the great Marc Crawford,.writer,teacher,.Soul brother of the highest order

Published at Brilliant Corners, Sunday, May 9, 2010

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