372

Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book 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.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Prestige Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read A Dark and Stormy Day CD/LP/Track Review A Dark and Stormy Day
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Pocono Git-Down CD/LP/Track Review Pocono Git-Down
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Rímur CD/LP/Track Review Rímur
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Schönbrunn CD/LP/Track Review Schönbrunn
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read "Real Talk" CD/LP/Track Review Real Talk
by Edward Blanco
Published: May 23, 2016
Read "Insufficient Funs" CD/LP/Track Review Insufficient Funs
by Ian Patterson
Published: January 12, 2017
Read "Henry" CD/LP/Track Review Henry
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 1, 2016
Read "Getting All The Evil Of The Piston Collar!" CD/LP/Track Review Getting All The Evil Of The Piston Collar!
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 3, 2016
Read "Life After Life" CD/LP/Track Review Life After Life
by Troy Collins
Published: March 5, 2016
Read "Jim Crow's Tears" CD/LP/Track Review Jim Crow's Tears
by James Nadal
Published: November 10, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!