BOOKER ERVIN – THE GOOD BOOK
Acrobat released a 4CD set of Booker Ervin: The Good Book – The Early Years 1960-1962. It is a compilation of performances from Ervin’s debut album The Book Cooks, That’s It and guest appearances on albums by Horace Parlan, Mal Waldron, Teddy Charles and Bill Barron. At the time, the Denison, Texas-born Ervin had just made his mark in the group of Charles Mingus, his forceful, fire and brimstone-style being a big asset on classic albums as, among others, Mingus Ah Um and Blues & Roots. Ervin was ready to capitalize on his recent exposure through the Mingus association, but regardless of his recording activity life as a freelancer in New York was tough. It turned out that the tenor saxophonist never really gained the public acclaim he deserved.
There are a number of misunderstandings about the life and career of Booker Ervin, a tenor saxophonist adored by legions of classic jazz fans and, to be sure, certainly also derided by some because of his supposedly ‘superficial’ wailing style. For one thing, Booker Ervin is a sincere, passionate and unique saxophonist but not the harmonically advanced Coltranesque musician a number of critics and aficionados believed him to be. The English saxophonist and writer Simon Spillett, who wrote the liner notes to The Good Book, tackles other myths as well about the life and style of Ervin, who died in 1969 at the age of 39. Rarely does the jazz fan encounter such extensive and insightful essays. Spillett has written the definitive account of Ervin’s life and offers a balanced evaluation of his legacy in a booklet that would look far from silly as a separate publication. On the contrary.
The Book Cooks showed Ervin’s potential, That’s It perfectly nails his singular aesthetic. The contrast of his style with Eric Dolphy’s on Mal Waldron’s The Quest is one of the reasons why that album is epic. Acrobat also picked intriguing albums by Bill Barron (Hot Line – The Tenor Of Bill Barron) and Teddy Charles (Metronome Presents Jazz In The Garden At The Museum Of Modern Art), both very collectable LP’s. Hopefully Acrobat will focus on mid-and late career in the future.