Important musical document
Tyler Smith | Denver, CO United States | 05/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Enja made an important contribution to the legacy of the great tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin with this release. An unusual and affecting album, "Lament for Booker Ervin" features a tour-de-force live 1965 performance from Booker along with a spoken remembrance and piano tribute from his friend and musical associate, pianist Horace Parlan.Ervin, who died in 1970, established himself during a relatively brief career (he died at 40) as a powerful and emotional player who straddled the bop and avant-garde worlds of jazz. He was an important to contributor to Charles Mingus's bands of the late 1950s and produced several very fine albums as a leader, notably on Prestige and the short-lived Candid labels. His bluesy, R&B-inflected sound emerges on this album in a 27-plus-minute powerhouse performance, "Blues for You," recorded live at the Berlin Jazz Festival five years before his death. In listening to this performance, I'm reminded that Paul Gonsalvez received enormous critical acclaim (not unjustifiably) for a 27-chorus solo performance with Ellington's orchestra of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. While that solo seemed inexhaustible in energy, it was about a quarter of the length of the solo you'll here from Ervin on this record. Is longer better? No, not necessarily, but in this case, Booker is able to take a rather simple blues and spin out ideas seemingly endlessly with an almost incredible lack of pause. The performance also brings to mind some of Coltrane's famous live excursions captured on record, such as "Chasin' the Trane," but Booker's work is distinguished from Coltrane's in its closer tracking to the core of the blues.All in all, it's not a performance for everyone, but for lovers of hard-core jazz saxophone, it's a must.The long track is followed by a few minutes of eloquent words from Parlan, who reminisces in simple, unaffected language about Ervin (with whom he played with Mingus and in a quartet the two formed and maintained for a year). Parlan then performs, movingly, on solo piano, his "Lament for Booker Ervin," a blues that is a fitting tribute to a fallen friend.Those unfamiliar with Booker Ervin may find some of his Prestige albums, such as "Blues Book" and "Space Book," more fitting places to acquaint themselves with his sound. Still, "Lament for Booker Ervin" displays the depth of his sound and offers an eloquent farewell to a key, if often overlooked, contributor to modern jazz."