February 25, 2015

Booker Ervin - The Song Book (1964)

The Song Book is the most melodic and traditional of Ervin's 'Book' tetralogy (the other albums are The Blues Book, The Freedom Book, and The Space Book). Still, this behind-the-scenes post-bop saxophonist makes something that isn't a run of the mill hard bop album. The drummer, Alan Dawson, who played with some legends like Lionel Hampton and Jackie Byard starts the album with a quick and edgy cymbal shuffle and with his short solo at the end of the song he sounds like a not-so-far cry from his once-pupil, Tony Williams. The second track, a standard called Come Sunday, might sound like a usual ballad take, but if you play close enough to the music you'll hear Richard Davis doing some odd jumps and maneuvers to avoid ballad cliches and provide a subtle mood shift; unsurprisingly this is the same ultra-strange bass clarinet and bass ballad done on Dolphy's Iron Man. There's also the famous Tommy Flanagan, a very conservative pianist that played on several forward-thinking albums like Giant Steps and Trompeta Toccata, giving The Song Book its comfy atmosphere. A very neat session by one of the more overlooked saxophonists that masters both control of melody and progressive force. If you've listened to Dolphy's Five Spot dates, expect something similar to that with a more traditional lead horn.


The Song Book