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Tex Book Tenor (1968)

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Billy Higgins

Tex Book Tenor was recorded in 1968 as a follow-up to Booker Ervin's debut date for Blue Note, The In Between, which was released in January of the same year. (Ervin had made two records for Pacific Jazz, which is now owned, like Blue Note, by EMI.) The album remained unreleased until 1976, when it was issued with an also unreleased Horace Parlan date on a double LP called Back from the Gig. This is its first appearance on CD. The lineup is stellar and includes Billy Higgins, Woody Shaw, Kenny Barron, and bassist Jan Arnet from Czechoslovakia. Barron and Ervin had worked together before, and Arnet had worked with Ervin three years earlier as a touring partner in Germany. The music here includes three Ervin originals, Barron's wonderful "Gichi," and Shaw's "In a Capricornian Way." The Afro-Latin-influenced grooves of "Gichi" display Ervin playing his solo in prime snake-charmer mode. His own "Den Tex" is classic hard bop with Barron and Ervin going head to head throughout. "Lynn's Tune" is a beautiful midtempo ballad with wonderful work by Arnet and a loping solo by Shaw. The closer is "204," a steaming hard bop tune with a killer head featuring the two horns just pushing the tempo before Ervin goes off the map into his solo. Barron's playing is totally inspired, pushing huge chords at both players as they dig into the changes and come out breathing fire. This is a wonderful addition not only to the Blue Note catalog on CD, but to Ervin's own shelf as well, and should be picked up by anyone interested in him as a bandleader and composer. ~ Thom Jurek