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
. 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...