Booker Ervin


The Freedom Book

  • Release Date: 01 May 2007
  • PRCD-30160

Booker Ervin's recordings with Charles Mingus and Randy Weston brought him good reviews and a bit of notoriety. But it was his series of Song Books for Prestige Records that broadcast the stentorian announcement that a jazz orator of gigantic stature had arrived. Ervin's tenor saxophone sound was haunted by the loneliness and spaciousness of the Texas plains where he was raised. The Southwest moan was an integral part of his playing. But his style went beyond the classic Texas tenor tradition… MORE


Booker Ervin was one of the great Texas tenor saxophonists, with the breadth of tone and conception common to the breed. His collaborations with… More

This music was taped at the beginning of the 1965 Munich, Germany session that also produced the Ervin/Dexter Gordon encounter Setting the… More

Intensity marked everything that Booker Ervin played. In his harmonic concept, slashing attack, and broad Texas sound, Ervin demanded attention… More

Like the greatest tenor saxophonist of his (or perhaps any) generation, John Coltrane, to whom he bore little true stylistic resemblance, Booker… More

Booker Ervin, Jaki Byard, Richard Davis, and Alan Dawson formed one of the immortal tenor-and-rhythm units of the Sixties, a group worthy of… More

Tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin's reputation was solidified in the mid-Sixties with the series of "book" albums he released on… More

The tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin first received national notice in a Charles Mingus group of the late 1950s. He came into his own during the… More

Of Booker Ervin's nine Prestige albums, this one is special because it presents him exclusively in the contexts of standard songs. Ervin's… More

Booker Ervin's recordings with Charles Mingus and Randy Weston brought him good reviews and a bit of notoriety. But it was his series of Song… More



Booker Ervin (1930-1970) had a large hard tone like an r&b tenor saxophonist, but he was actually an adventurous player whose music fell between hard bop and the avant-garde.

Ervin originally played trombone but taught himself the tenor when he was in the Air Force in the early 1950s. After his discharge, he studied music for two years before he made his recording debut with Ernie Fields in 1956. During that year he first performed with Charles Mingus and he was a key part of Mingus’s groups during 1956-1962, offering a contrast to the wild flights of Eric Dolphy.

During 1963-1965, Ervin led ten albums for Prestige and each has its rewarding moments. Exultation! matches Ervin with altoist Frank Strozier in an explosive quintet. The Freedom Book has Ervin interacting with the unbeatable rhythm section of pianist Jaki Byard, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Alan Dawson. The Song Book, with Tommy Flanagan in Byard’s place, features the intense tenor interpreting a set of veteran standards. The Blues Book, with trumpeter Carmell Jones and pianist Gildo Mahones, is comprised of four very different blues and more variety than expected. The Space Book has adventurous improvisations by Ervin, Byard, Davis, and Dawson while Settin’ the Pace features two lengthy and exciting jam-session numbers with fellow tenor Dexter Gordon and a pair of quartet pieces that showcase Ervin. The tenorist is particularly passionate on the stretched-out performances of The Trance and stars with a sextet on Heavy. Released years later, Groovin’ High contains additional material from The Freedom Book, The Blues Book, and The Space Book sessions while Gumbo! (part of which was issued for the first time in 1999) has Ervin sharing the spotlight with altoist Pony Poindexter and on five songs leading an organ trio with Larry Young.

Booker Ervin died much too young from kidney disease. He is one of the underrated greats of jazz history, a true individualist.