Eric Dolphy: 'Out to Lunch' Avant-garde and sometimes controversial, Eric Dolphy was a master of several instruments. He was one of the first musicians to record unaccompanied horn solos, and largely introduced the bass clarinet as a solo instrument. On this 1964 album, Dolphy displays his talents on flute, alto saxophone, and bass clarinet.


Eric Dolphy: 'Out to Lunch'

Eric Dolphy: 'Out to Lunch'

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The cover of Out to Lunch

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A.B. SPELLMAN, National Endowment for the Arts: It may be hard for you to believe, but that was very controversial music when it was recorded in 1964. But today, it's going into the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library. I'm A.B. Spellman, and Murray Horwitz, what was all the shouting about?

MURRAY HORWITZ, American Film Institute: A.B., that is disingenuous of you in the extreme. As you well know, it's woodwind player Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch. And not only were you there, but you — I was astonished to discover — wrote the liner notes.

SPEELMAN: I'm busted.

HORWITZ: No, they're great liner notes. And, as you wrote back then, this is not music to roller skate by.

SPELLMAN: Definitely not.


HORWITZ: But, you know what A.B.? I'm wondering if it sounds as "out" to us now as it did back then.

SPELLMAN: I don't think so, Murray. It still sounds fresh, but it doesn't sound nearly so "out." The world has turned a few times since 1964.

HORWITZ: Yeah, and I think part of it has to do with this extraordinary - and extraordinarily young - ensemble: the trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, the vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, the bassist Richard Davis, Eric Dolphy, and the drummer Tony Williams, who had just turned 18 a few weeks before this record was made.

SPELLMAN: Yeah, Murray, you know that Eric Dolphy told me that everyone's a leader in this session, and they use all kinds of really stunning ensemble sounds. Check out this duet of Dolphy on bass clarinet and Davis on bass.


HORWITZ: But the main reason we're putting this record into the NPR Basic Jazz Record Library is Eric Dolphy.

SPELLMAN: Absolutely. You hear him on three instruments on this record: flute, alto saxophone, and bass clarinet.

HORWITZ: And, he's a real virtuoso, not just in the way he gets around those instruments, but in his conception, and his ability to do whatever he wants. He's so musical and, to me, vocal. It almost sounds like a human's voice at times.

SPELLMAN: It's music that may astonish you, but it belongs in your NPR Basic Jazz Record Library. It's Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch, and it's on the Blue Note label.

HORWITZ: The NPR Basic Jazz Record Library is supported by NPR member stations and by the Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Fund. For NPR Jazz, I'm Murray Horwitz.

SPELLMAN: And, I'm A.B. Spellman.