Only being born too late kept Booker Ervin from becoming one of the original Texas Tenors. No one embodied the braggadocio of the Texas jazz sound like the Denison native; he cut into each piece with his sawtoothed tone, improvising with ferocity. Unexplained is how Ervin, who soared during his years with bassist Charles Mingus and on his 1963 breakthrough, The Freedom Book, found his latter-day career stalled. Or how the newly reissued Tex Book Tenor (Blue Note), a post-bop powerhouse ’68 session made two years before his death, sat on the shelves for almost a decade, in print only sporadically since then. Understated in the modal opener, “Gichi,” Ervin’s saxophone then explodes. The flawless drumming of Billy Higgins propels the session; trumpeter Woody Shaw and pianist Kenny Barron also shine. But no one overshadows Ervin. He made sure of that.
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