Booker Irvine: A Comprehensive Guide


Booker Ervin was an American jazz saxophonist born in Denison, Texas in 1930. He was known for his big, bold sound, and his ability to play both bebop and soulful ballads. Although he only recorded for a short period of time, he left an indelible mark on the jazz world. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at Ervin’s life, career, and legacy.

Early Life

Booker Ervin grew up in a musical family. His mother was a church organist, and his father played guitar. Ervin began playing the saxophone in high school and continued his studies at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. After college, he served in the military and played in the band. After his discharge, he moved to Boston to pursue a career in music.

Early Career

Ervin arrived in Boston in 1952 and quickly became part of the vibrant jazz scene. He played with such notable musicians as Jaki Byard, Nat Pierce, and Herb Pomeroy. In 1956, Ervin moved to New York City and began playing with Charles Mingus. Mingus was impressed by Ervin’s sound and gave him the opportunity to record his first album as a leader.

The Prestige Years

Ervin signed with Prestige Records in 1960 and recorded a series of highly regarded albums. He was joined on these records by such musicians as Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Dorham, and Horace Parlan. Ervin’s playing was characterized by his forceful sound and inventive solos. He was equally adept at playing upbeat, hard-driving tunes as well as soulful ballads.

The Mingus Years

Ervin continued to play with Mingus throughout the 1960s, both as a sideman and as a featured soloist in Mingus’s band. He played on such notable albums as “Mingus Ah Um” and “Blues and Roots.” Ervin’s contributions to these albums helped make them classics of the jazz canon.

Later Career

Ervin continued to record and perform throughout the 1960s, although his output slowed down considerably after leaving Prestige Records in 1964. He recorded several albums for Blue Note Records in the late 1960s, including “The In Between” and “Heavy!”


Although he only recorded for a relatively short period of time, Booker Ervin left an indelible mark on the jazz world. His big, bold sound and inventive solos earned him the respect of his peers and inspired many younger musicians. Ervin’s recordings continue to be popular among jazz fans today, and his legacy lives on through his music.


In conclusion, Booker Ervin was a highly regarded saxophonist who made a significant contribution to the jazz world. His big, bold sound and inventive solos set him apart from his peers, and his recordings continue to be highly regarded today. Although his life was cut short, he left an enduring legacy through his music, and his influence can be heard in the playing of many younger saxophonists.