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Eric Dolphy: Last Date

This 1991 documentary is a love letter to Eric Dolphy, mysterious master of the alto sax, flute and bass clarinet who died at 36 in Germany after he lapsed into a coma brought about by diabetes; doctors mistakenly assumed it was because he was a drug addict and didn’t give him the proper care. While the DVD covers Dolphy’s whole career, its focal point is the June 2, 1964, radio session Dolphy did in the Netherlands with the Misha Mengelberg Trio, featuring Han Bennink and Jacques Schols. The session was made 27 days before Dolphy died in Berlin, and all the members of the trio reminisce about the American they had met only days before the session.

The documentary team also travels to Los Angeles to visit Dolphy’s old home, and musicians like Buddy Collette, Ted Curson, Jaki Byard and Richard Davis provide commentary about their contemporary. But the best parts are from a TV appearance Dolphy made with the Charles Mingus group in Oslo, Norway. Not only is the music good, it’s spooky to hear the prickly Mingus egg on the reticent Dolphy to explain why he’s going to leave the group and stay in Europe.

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