Verse Music Group is reissuing the 1950s catalog from Bethlehem Records, a vital jazz label with lots of albums long out of print or hard to find. Among many great records in the reissue campaign is this gem from Booker Ervin. Actually released in 1960, The Book Cooks is a soulful and heated set, as capable of smoldering as it is of bursting into fire. The band behind him is excellent, especially Tommy Flanagan’s piano work on “The Blue Book”, Tommy Turrentine’s trumpet work on “Little Jane”, and the whole band, well, cooking on “Git It”.
Perhaps most impressive throughout the record is the back and forth between the fiery solos of Ervin and the more spacious work of fellow saxophonist Zoot Sims. Of course, Ervin shows his hand at the cool and expansive as well, on standout ballad “Largo”. Overall, there is an impressive breadth of sounds and shifts in tempo on The Book Cooks, making it an undersold gem of its time. It’s easy to see names in the reissue campaign like Mingus and Gordon and Blakey and hone in on them, but Ervin’s contribution is every bit as vital—sometimes even more so—than those other, possibly more well-known entries. Go get this one.