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April 1998

Booker Ervin
The In Between
Blue Note Records

Booker Ervin's The In Between is a minor classic belatedly restored to print as part of Blue Note's Connoisseur CD Series. Recorded in '68, it is a vivid snapshot of an established artist consolidating the strands of his recent accomplishments (such as the "Book" series for Prestige) while articulating new directions for his music. Compositionally, Ervin tapped a number of vital sources, ranging from his former employer, Charles Mingus ("Mour"), to the contemporary influence of the East ("The Muse"). Still, even though the tenor saxophonist stretched as a composer, his trademark full-throated, Texas-rooted sound remains the cornerstone of this energizing quintet date.

Of Ervin's collaborators, only trumpeter Richard Williams had a considerable track record; his solos on cookers like the title tune hold up well next to the contemporary output of Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw.

Bassist Cevera Jefferies and drummer Lennie McBrowne were all but unknown at the time (and remain so to this day), but they hand in consistently serviceable performances. Yet, the newcomer in the piano chair of Ervin's quintet, Bobby Few, evolved into one of his generation's most distinctive post-bop pianists; his subsequent work with Steve Lacy and Frank Wright is strongly recommended. His bold solo and comping style already formed, Few was an excellent foil for Ervin's underheralded mastery.

Originally published in April 1998
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