Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Booker Ervin- ebullient, sad and free

Though he's usually noted as a sideman along with Eric Dolphy in Charlie Mingus' band, saxist Booker Ervin is also one of the greatest proponents of 60's bop, tragically only making it to age 40 at his death in 1970. In his last few years, he recorded a series of "books," themed-albums including The Freedom Book from late 1963 and now recently reissued by Prestige. Here you'll find the over-the-top ebullient "A Lunar Tune" that truly does sound extraterrestrial as Ervin uses his horn to blast through scales- the way he bents notes shows that he was definitely listening to the free music (hence the title) that his old running buddy Dolphy (among others) was hep to (but which Mingus sadly dissed). And while "Grants Stand" and "Al's End" also scale such dizzying heights, it's the two low-key tunes which make this album truly magical. "Cry Me Not" is proof positive that the blues can be felt and expressed validly outside its own genre. And then there's the extraordinary nine and a half minutes of "A Day To Mourn," supposedly a tribute to the then-recently slain JFK. If you believe that there are indeed five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), then your faith is affirmed as you'll hear those full range of emotions here. Truly an extraordinary display.

Hear some sound samples at Barnes and Noble

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