Featuring Eric Dolphy (alto sax, bass clarinet, flute), Booker Little (trumpet) Mal Waldron (piano), Richard Davis (bass), and Ed Blackwell (drums)
Includes remastered audio, original liner notes by Robert Levin and new liners by Neil Tesser.
In mid-July of 1961, the New York Times reported that the city-home of the Five Spot, where this short-lived quintet played its one and only engagement-was experiencing warmer than usual temperatures. Pianos hate extremes of temperature. In addition, heavy rainstorms had pummeled the metropolitan area the day before this recording, with clouds and scattered storms continuing the next few days; we can guess that the humidity played its part in sapping the piano strings of their necessary tension. Whatever the reason, Mal Waldron found himself playing what may be the most ferociously, obtrusively, and at times comically out-of-tune piano on any major jazz recording of the last 60 years.
Over the years, as history has increasingly lionized these performances, the problem of the piano has grown proportionally. Less than three months after the Five Spot date, trumpeter Booker Little died: the first among equals in this band, he shared with Eric Dolphy an encyclopedic command of form and technique, and a commitment to shared musical ideals. Little's death placed the heavy stamp of mortality on this one-and-only collaboration between musical soulmates, marred as it was by the piano clinkers. Less than three years after that, Dolphy himself was dead, predictably raising the stakes on any music he had recorded, let alone a once-in-his-lifetime quintet-and further raising the hackles of those who bemoaned the interruptive intonation by the hapless piano.
That night at the Five Spot, the Dolphy-Little quintet recorded ten tunes. Four of them (including one alternate take) appeared on the New Jazz label as Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot. The first two tunes heard here arrived later as Volume 2 on Prestige; "Number Eight (Potsa Lotsa)" and "Booker's Waltz," included here as bonus tracks, first appeared on Memorial Album; and the remaining two, "God Bless the Child" and "Status Seeking," were issued posthumously on Dolphy's Here and There, also on Prestige.