In some ways tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin was the archetypal jazz player for the post-bop 1960s, combining the tradition of Texas sax with just the hint of edgy modernism, a sort of the Delta-meets-Morocco sound so accessible that it is easy to miss the chances Ervin took with his music. Although his career was short (cancer claimed him in the summer of 1970 when he was just shy of his 40th birthday), Ervin still managed to record some 20 albums as a frontman, most notably his "book" series, The Song Book, The Blues Book, The Space Book, and this fine session, The Freedom Book, which finds him working with a rhythm section of Jaki Byard…
Tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin joined alto and soprano saxophonist Pony Poindexter in 1963 on Gumbo, based around the sights and sounds of Poindexter's birthplace, the Crescent City. Poindexter penned the majority of these compositions, providing them with evocative titles of the city: "Creole Girl," "French Market," and "Gumbo Filet." Gumbo finds Ervin playing more straight-ahead than on his exploratory "Book" sessions, which he had begun recording under his name by this time.
Booker Ervin headed to Blue Note in 1968 for The In Between, a record that found him continuing in the vein of his later Prestige sessions. Supported by trumpeter Richard Williams, pianist Bobby Few, bassist Cevera Jeffries and drummer Lennie McBrowne, Ervin created an album that pushed the boundaries of hard bop. Every song on The In Between is an Ervin original designed to challenge the musicians.
To hear Booker Ervin as the leading solo voice on a recording with a larger ensemble is a treat, not only for his fans, but for those interested in modern big-band sounds grown from the bop era that are flavored with urban blues. A trio of different sessions done at Webster Hall in New York City features groups ranging from ten to eleven pieces, with personnel switched up, and no supplemental saxophonists.