The Book Cooks Booker Ervin
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- 1The Blue Book08:35
- 2Git It06:56
- 3Little Jane06:24
- 4The Book Cooks10:42
- 6Poor Butterfly03:46
Info for The Book Cooks
A very distinctive tenor with a hard, passionate tone and an emotional style that was still tied to chordal improvisation, Booker Ervin was a true original.
He was originally a trombonist, but taught himself tenor while in the Air Force. Ervin gained fame while playing with Charles Mingus (off and on during 1956-1962), holding his own with the volatile bassist and Eric Dolphy. He made dates of his own for Bethlehem during 1960-1961.
„The Verse Music Group [not Verve] is re-releasing a number of Bethlehem Records’ classic issues recorded back in the 1950s and 1960s, now in remastered sound. We will be reviewing a number of them as they come across our desks. One of the obvious choices for re-release is Booker Ervin’s initial recording as a leader, The Book Cooks. It both highlights Ervin’s’ soulful, passionate playing as well as features an all-star plus backing band of Zoot Sims, the woefully under documented trumpeter, Tommy Turpentine (Stanley’s brother), as well as an ace rhythm section of Tommy Flanagan, Dannie Richmond, and George Tucker.
Comprised of four Ervin compositions as well as a Teddy Charles’ tribute to Booker, and the tune, “Poor Butterfly” this album was released in mono back around 1960, was Ervin’s first album as a band leader. And as mentioned before, what a band it was…
Ervin lived to be only 39 years old, passing away in 1970. He was affectionately know as “The Book” and most of the titles released under his name featured his moniker in their title (The Song Book, The Freedom Book, The Space Book, The Blues Book…).
Ervin was a prime member of Charles Mingus’ group during its prime, having to hold his own with the mercurial Mingus, and the iconic Eric Dolphy. Dannie Richmond, Mingus’ drummer, is featured here. Noted for hard-charging, passionate playing, with strong improvisational skills, Booker Ervin was a force to be reckoned with. He came out of the gate hard-charging, pouring out his soul, and few subsequent tenor stylists matched his intensity. His skills, fully formed, are on display here.
“The Blue Book’ is done as a mournful blues. The front line horns blend well and each gets a solo turn, as well as Tommy Flanagan on piano. This remaster brings bassist George Tucker up into the mix to great effect. The difference in the hard bop tone of Ervin and the more mainstream, but yet still soulful playing of Zoot Sims are on display throughout this album. I am so happy to have Tommy Turrentine on this date, as the trumpeter has never got his due and his recording outlet is minimal with only one title in his name, as he suffered from bad health. He was a featured player with Max Roach’s groups, along with his brother, Stanley. Here, he is vibrant, and most effective on blues tunes.
The horns’ ensemble skills are featured on “Git It.” Every member gets solo time as well. “Little Jane” is next and Booker shows his experience with Mingus on this track. The passion expressed through his horn by Ervin is in evidence here. Solo honors are shared, as well, throughout the rest of the album.
The title track, written by Teddy Charles, lets several group members solo, before Ervin and Sims accelerate, each distinguishable in a semi-cutting session. The energy is brought down in the ballad, “Largo” where just Ervin and the rhythm section play. It is a good chance to hear the talents of Booker alone.
I was pleased with the remastering done by John Sigmon. Nothing earth-shaking here, but a solid job working with source material, and the resultant acoustics are sharp and clean-sounding. For fans of Booker Ervin’s passionate blowing, this album has a lot to recommend, and the personnel is more than top flight. Highly recommended!“(Jeff Krow, Audiophile Audition)
Booker Ervin, tenor saxophone
Tommy Flanagan, piano
Tommy Turrentine, trumpet
George Tucker, bass
Dannie Richmond, drums
Zoot Sims, tenor saxophone
was a hard bop saxophone player and composer. He was born, Booker Telleferro Ervin II, in 1930 in Denison, Texas. He started playing trombone in his youth bur Ervin did not start playing saxophone until he was in the US Air Force. After his discharge he moved to Boston and continue his studies at the Berklee College of Music. Although he did not start playing saxophone until later in life, Ervin quickly excelled as a gifted player and once he completed his time at Berklee he moved to New York to begin his professional career. He began by getting a job with the Horace Parlan Quartet. Parlan was a hard bop pianist who had made a name for himself in New York and would go on to play with Charlie Mingus on many of his important recordings. It was with Parlan's group that Ervin got his first recording experiences when they recorded the albums Up and Down (1961 - Blue Note), which also featured musicians Grant Green on guitar, George Tucker on bass and Al Harewood on drums and Happy Frame of Mind (1963 - Blue Note). Up and Down also opens with an Ervin composition, "The Book's Beat". Happy Frame of Mind also features an Ervin composition, "A Tune for Richard" and the troupe is joined by drummer Billy Higgins. Unfortunately, this latter album sat unreleased until 1976. Before the 50's were over Ervin would also spend some time working with Charlie Mingus and he appears on the recording of the tune "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat".
Although Ervin's solo albums would mark some of the finest playing in jazz, it was his collaborations with Mingus that garner him the most attention. Some of the more notable recordings of Mingus' that Ervin appears on are the albums Mingus Ah Um (1959 - Columbia), which also featured musicians John Handy and Shafi Hadi on saxophones, trombonists Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis, drummer Dannie Richmond and pianist Horace Parlan, and the album Mingus Dynasty (1959 - Columbia). Perhaps the most important of Mingus' that he pears on though is the 1963 album Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus (1963 - Impulse!), with musicians Jaki Byard on piano, Eric Dolphy on flute and saxophone, Walter Perkins on drums and Eddie Preston on trumpet.
In 1960 Ervin recorded his first album with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, called Soulful Saxes (1960 - Affinity). That same year he released his first solo album, The Book Cooks (1960 - Bethlehem), where he is joined by Zoot Sims on saxophone, Tommy Turrentine on trumpet, George Tucker on bass, Tommy Flanagan on piano and Dannie Richmond on drums. Ervin penned five of the songs on the album including "The Blue Book", "Git It" and "Little Jane". Before the year was out Ervin had moved on to the Savoy label and he released Cookin' (1960 - Savoy), which also featured several compositions by Ervin such as "Dee Da Do" and "Mr. Wiggles". It was Ervin's album That's It (1961 - Candid) though that would find him leading the group with Horace Parlan rather than being a sideman.
In 1961 Ervin recorded the album Out Front! (1961 - Prestige) with pianist Jaki Byard as leader. This session would pair the two with musicians Walter Perkins on drums and Bob Cranshaw on bass. This same year would fin Ervin playing the Eric Dolphy/Booker Ervin/Mal Waldron Sextet album The Quest (1961 - Prestige) with musicians Ron Carter on bass, Mal Waldron on piano and Charlie Persip on drums. The album consists of all Waldron compositions and puts Ervin in the position of having ot hold his own next to the undisputed master saxophonist Dolphy. Ervin proves himself and these sessions, along with his other works with Mingus attracted many offers from recording labels for future albums.
It was in 1963 that Ervin got a chance to record for the famed Blue Note label as a leader. Unfortunately the sessions would shelved until the 70's when they were released as Back from the Gig (1976 - Blue Note) with musicians Grant Green on guitar, Parlan on piano, Johnny Coles on trumpet along with Woody Shaw.
Beginning with Bad News Blues (1963 - Prestige), Ervin would begin recording a long series of records for the Prestige label in the 60's. He would proceed to record the albums Exultation! (1963 - Prestige), which find him alongside saxophonist Frank Strozier, pianist Parlan, bassist Butch Warren and drummer Perkins, and the album Groovin' High (1964 - Blue Note), which features some lengthier compositions of Ervin's like "Bass-IX" which tops eleven minutes. Jaki Byard contributes his piano skills to this song as well.
It was the next series of albums, known as his book series, though that established Ervin as a strong leader. He released the album Freedom Book (1963 - Prestige), which showcased many Ervin compositions including "A Lunar Tune", "Grant's Stand", "A Day to Mourn" and "Al's In". Next came the album The Song Book (1964 - Prestige), which found Ervin taking on more traditional material such as Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday", the George Gershwin songs "Love is Here to Stay" and the standards "All the Things You Are" and "Just Friends". The last two albums in the series were The Blues Book (1964 - Prestige), which consists of all Ervin compositions like "Eerie Dearie" and "No Booze Blues", and the album The Space Book (1964 - Prestige), which is indeed his most spacey feeling album. Assisted once again by Byard on piano, the group manage to achieve an outerworldly sound, expecially on the two Ervin originals, "Number Two" and "Mojo".
Ervin would continue to record for the Prestige label as well as the Pacific Jazz Label for the remainder of the 60's. He would make waves in the jazz scene with albums like The Trance (1965 - Prestige) and Structurally Sound (1966 - Pacific Jazz). Although Ervin made many major contributions to the world of jazz he has largely been forgotten as a leader and is often only remembered for his stints as sideman for many of the giants of the era. In 1970 cancer claimed his life at the prime of his career. (By Nick Castro)