All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
The first of four thematically linked albums, tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin's The Freedom Book is an overlooked classic. The Song Book, The Blues Book and The Space Book were all subsequently recorded in 1964 for Prestige, but this seminal 1963 recording is a masterpiece of unconventional, advanced hard bop.

Less free than the title suggests, the album remains challenging and utterly contemporary. While not as willfully avant-garde as his contemporaries Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman, Ervin (best known as Charles Mingus' primary tenor saxophonist from 1956-1962) traveled the same subtle inside-outside territory as Jackie McLean and Sam Rivers. Equally capable of rich lyricism and electrifying tension, Ervin's distinctively plangent tone undulates with dramatic brio. His pithy timbre and slippery, unpredictable phrasing offers a welcome alternative to the Coltrane and Rollins imitators of the time.

Ervin is joined by visionary pianist Jaki Byard (a fellow veteran of the classic Mingus bands), a musician beyond category. Byard was post-modern before such a term even existed; his style encompasses everything from stride to free jazz.

The rhythm section is rounded out by imaginative bassist Richard Davis and the superlative drummer Alan Dawson (Tony Williams' future teacher). Davis' unique phrasing is coupled with an unconventional melodic sensibility. Dawson's fractured rhythmic attack provides an edgy undercurrent, insinuating time without overstating it. His endlessly modulating ebb and flow complements Davis' ability to stretch the time while maintaining the pulse perfectly.

Rarely has a rhythm section been so in tune with one another. On "Grant's Stand" Byard stretches a wildly oscillating statement into a series of descending arpeggios that Dawson accents as the two plummet, trading phrases before Davis enters, transposing their statements. For a line-up that never officially played out live, this studio group reveals a remarkable level of interaction and interplay, more than most veteran touring ensembles.

The album is dominated by a trio of scorching up-tempo cookers, with "A Lunar Tune" churning out irrepressible locomotive energy. Randy Weston's tender "Cry Me Not" and Ervin's somber dedication to the late President Kennedy, "A Day To Mourn," provide temporary respite. This edition also features a previously unissued bonus cut; a brief run through a sprightly "Stella By Starlight."

Re-convening ten months later for the even more exploratory The Space Book (Prestige, 1964), this quartet played at an almost telepathic level. Timeless in its appeal, this remastered edition of The Freedom Book belongs in the album collection of any serious jazz fan.

Track Listing: A Lunar Tune; Cry Me Not; Grant's Stand; A Day To Mourn; Al's In; Stella By Starlight.

Personnel: Booker Ervin: tenor saxophone; Jaki Byard: piano; Richard Davis: bass; Alan Dawson: drums.

Title: The Freedom Book | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Prestige Records


comments powered by Disqus

My Blue Note Obsession
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles

Booker 'n' Brass

Lone Hill Jazz

The Freedom Book

The Freedom Book

Prestige Records

Tex Book Tenor

Tex Book Tenor

Blue Note Records



Prestige Records



Lone Hill Jazz


Related Articles

Read Live In Healdsburg CD/LP/Track Review
Live In Healdsburg
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Carpe Diem CD/LP/Track Review
Carpe Diem
by Don Phipps
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Exotica CD/LP/Track Review
by Chris May
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Oriental Orbit CD/LP/Track Review
Oriental Orbit
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Brightbird CD/LP/Track Review
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Peaks of Light CD/LP/Track Review
Peaks of Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Rock Pool Mirror" CD/LP/Track Review Rock Pool Mirror
by Barry O'Sullivan
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "Green Man" CD/LP/Track Review Green Man
by Jim Olin
Published: October 6, 2017
Read "A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That" CD/LP/Track Review A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That
by James Nadal
Published: April 15, 2017
Read "Heart Knows" CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Second City" CD/LP/Track Review Second City
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 13, 2017
Read "Rome" CD/LP/Track Review Rome
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 15, 2017