Booker Ervin: That’s It

Reissue of a 1961 set by the blues-steeped altoist in company with the Minton's house band of Horace Parlan, George Tucker and Al Harewood


Booker Ervin was one of those tenor players who tended to be overlooked, playing at a time when Stitt, Gordon, Rollins, Coltrane and Mobley were in the ascendency. Like many Texan saxophonists, he was blues-orientated, having played with Ernie Fields’ R&B band in the mid-50s before making a name for himself with Charles Mingus, to whom he was introduced by his close friend, pianist Horace Parlan. Ervin was highly respected by many of his contemporaries, not least Mingus, who featured him on many of his classic albums in the late 50s and early 60s.

Parlan, with bassist George Tucker and drummer Al Harewood, formed the resident rhythm section at Minton’s Playhouse. With Ervin, they became known as The Playhouse Four, and this is the quartet that is recorded here for Candid. Parlan appeared under the name “Felix Krull” when it was originally released, as he was at the time contracted to Blue Note.

The set has been reissued before, most recently on the Acrobat label, as The Good Book, accompanied by The Book Cooks, Cookin’ and other recordings from the years 1960-62.

The material here shows Ervin at his best – strong, forceful and distinctive. He was able to maintain a balance between biting urgency and poise, constructing long but inventive phrases, as demonstrated on Mojo (a slightly less abrasive version than on The Space Book of 1964) and which, like Boo, ventures into the modal area.

Equally at ease with a ballad – here in the form of Uranus – or a standard (Poinciana and an uptempo Speak Low), he is supported well by Parlan (who later acknowledged the impression Ervin made on his own playing, always immersed in the blues) and the swinging Harewood, whilst Tucker excels on Poinciana and in his introduction and solo on Booker’s Blues, a first-rate example of blues-inflected modern jazz.

Mojo; Uranus; Poinciana; Speak Low; Booker’s Blues; Boo. (43.13)
Ervin (ts); Horace Parlan (p); George Tucker (b); Al Harewood (d).  New York, 6 January 1961.
Candid CCD 30142