Eric Allan Dolphy, Jr. (June 20, 1928 – June 29, 1964) was an American jazz alto saxophonist, bass clarinetist and flautist. On a few occasions, he also played the clarinet and piccolo. Dolphy was one of several multi-instrumentalists to gain prominence around the same time. His use of the bass clarinet in jazz performance probably finally established the instrument in the music, and he extended the vocabulary and boundaries of the alto saxophone, and was among the earliest significant jazz flute soloists.
His improvisational style was characterized by the use of wide intervals, in addition to using an array of extended techniques to emulate the sounds of human voices and animals. Although Dolphy’s work is sometimes classified as free jazz, his compositions and solos were often rooted in conventional (if highly abstracted) tonal bebop harmony and melodic lines that suggest the influences of modern classical composers such as Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky.
Dolphy was born in Los Angeles to Eric Allan Dolphy, Sr. and Sadie Dolphy, who immigrated to the United States from Panama.