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…
Recorded on December 3, 1963, The Freedom Book is a near perfect set of modern hard bop, ranging just far enough out there to feel fresh but retaining a strong lifeline to bop tradition. Highlights of the session include an impressive Ervin original, "A Lunar Tune," a fine version of Randy Weston's "Cry Me Not," the deliberately strident "Al's In," and another Ervin composition, the moving "A Day to Mourn," an emotionally charged ballad written after the assassination of JFK. The bonus track, an interesting and brief treatment of Victor Young's "Stella by Starlight," a piece strongly associated with Charlie Parker, was recorded at the Freedom Book session but was originally released on the album Groovin' High. It fits perfectly here, capping off a wonderful album.
This recording is the World Premiere of Charles Koechlin's Jungle Book and received the Orchestral Gramophone Award and was, memorably, accepted by the son of the composer. Charles Koechlin loved Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and set different parts of the book to music at various points in his career. The first of these - The Three Poems - bear the titles: Seal Lullaby, Night Song in the Jungle and Song of Kala Nag, with texts from The Jungle Book. The music, scored during 1904 - 04, is exotic and evocative. The lullaby mimics the gently lapping of waves as the soprano and chorus spin a soothing tapestry of sound. The Night-Song in the Jungle had a cadence that suggests movement (sung by the soprano, tenor, baritone and chorus) and is a song of well-wishing to the animals of the night. The Song of Kala Nag is a lament of an elephant that has been tamed for his old life in the jungle, sung by the tenor. The poem describes a night in the year when all of the elephants gather to dance together and, rather than being somber, the music is triumphant as the elephant recounts his past freedom and vows to have it again.
Listeners familiar with any of Masaaki Suzuki's many Bach recordings for BIS are likely to know what to expect from his recording of the Well-Tempered Klavier Book II: immaculate playing, impeccable taste, and immediate sound. Perhaps best-known internationally for his series of recordings of Bach's cantatas and other sacred works, Suzuki started his career as a superlative keyboard player, and as his performance here on the harpsichord demonstrates, he has kept his skills well-honed.