This 1960 recording constitutes my first exposure to the works of Eric Dolphy and I found the listening experience to be rich. Surprisingly, for a record of "free-jazz" this was not as out there (this was not intentional) as I expected and Eric favors an almost polite approach to what is essentially third stream music.
The lineup on this album includes the late Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, flute, Bb and bass clarinets), Ron Carter (cello), George Duvivier (acoustic bass) and Roy Haynes (drums). This is a fantastic ensemble that is capable of great ensemble work and superb soloing. One unexpected treat was to hear the great bassist Ron Carter on cello - he is a fantastic cellist as well and started out on this instrument in a classical setting. Indeed, along with Eric's astounding abilities on woodwinds (particularly the bass clarinet), the introduction of the cello as a solo instrument adds a textural element that you do not find too often in jazz. With respect to the rhythm section, George not only provides excellent counterpoint, but turns in some great solos on his own and Roy provides a solid foundation.
This album primarily features compositions by Eric, with the exception of Out There which was co-authored with Charles Mingus, and a few covers including Eclipse (Mingus), Sketch of Melba (Randy Weston) and Feathers (Hale Smith). The pieces are in large part, what one might consider "straight" jazz, although the at times, atonal torrents of notes on the woodwinds and the odd sound of a cello in this context lends it a bit of an edge. I have to admit that Ron's cello parts are fascinating and at times it sounds as if he is playing a completely different melody than Eric; with only a few notes used as common points that link the two players. The melody lines are highly angular and at points, seem to on the verge of veering out of control, only to fall back on track in a split second. Odd meters are also used a lot although for the most part, this album "swings" and breathes freely, like a lot of the hard bop that I am familiar with.
This Hybrid Super Audio Compact Disc (SA-CD) boasts fantastic sound, although I have yet to make full use of the SACD layers. As played through a set of excellent Bose headphones, there is great separation of individual instruments and both the highs and lows sound natural.
All in all, this is a fantastic recording of fascinating free jazz that showcases the exhilarating talents of Eric Dolphy and is highly recommended.