Booker Ervin The Song Book (1964) Prestige

Track Selection: The Lamp is Low

A jazz standard, adapted apparently from Pavane pour une infante défunte by Maurice Ravel. My Ravel is a bit …ahem…rusty apart from his dum dadda da dum so I’ll take the liner notes at their word.


Booker Ervin (ts) Tommy Flanagan (p) Richard Davis (b) Alan Dawson (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 27, 1964


Ervin is instantly recognisable with his distinctive blistering-hot phrasing  and melancholy tone, all played with aggressive fervor. Given the adulation heaped on Coltrane by the jazz cognoscenti, Booker Ervin remains, I think, seriously underappreciated (but not around here!).The choice of Tommy Flanagan is interesting, replacing Ervin’s usual partner and fellow Mingus stalwart, Jaki Byard. Byard has a strong inventive spirit compared with Flanagan’s more elegant and polished phrasing, however the presence of Flanagan may be due more to scheduling issues than creative intent.

People can argue about which Book is the best “Book” – Space, Song, Freedom, or Cook, but they are all good and belong on your shelf.

Vinyl: Prestige PRST 7318 original US stereo

Unusual, rare even, black label silver trident stereo Prestige, first I have seen personally. Stereo, unusual, so early. Sounds good.

Got to love that cover. Ervin sports a funky beret and shades teamed with a rugged coat against the New York chill, finished off with that earthy chuckle. The photographer had clearly been looking for a suitable gritty urban backdrop, and settled on a bad idea – a brick wall. It’s got, umm, “texture”… man.  The photo is given a final orange colour cast which saves the day.

The Matrix:

I don’t know why I was surprised, but a STEREO machine stamp appears in the run out, much as it would on Van Gelder Stereo master on Blue Note, accompanied by a VAN GELDER machine stamp.

Collectors Corner

Source: ebay Location: Germany



The auction attracted strong bidding, perhaps due to that “RARE!” word again. Much over-used, but in this case probably true. Well it’s in my private collection now, and its a well-travelled copy – US original, a spell Germany, now resting in the UK. .

5 thoughts on “Booker Ervin The Song Book (1964) Prestige

  1. Hmmm… I’ve listened to the track three times in a row now, but if you wouldn’t have said it, I wouldn’t have recognized any relation with Ravel’s Pavane pour un infant défunte. The only reason I’m familiar with the Ravel composition is because in my kiddie school days we had a music teacher who played it to the hilt for us. I’d say that somewhere in ‘Pavane…’ I hear some similarities, but maybe I’m not listening closely enough. If anyone else would like to point out where “The Lamp Is Low” refers to Ravel, HERE is the orchestral version of the original piano solo piece 😉

  2. Interestingly – I have the exact same pressing as you do! I have also never seen another. My thinking was that Prestige labels went from the yellow/black fireworks (NYC followed by NJ), to the blue label, then dark purple, then ligher purple, followed by the 70s green label pressings. I think you are right in that the black followed the blue labels. I will get this one out for a spin tonight!

  3. That’s interesting. I’ve never seen that stamp combo before, I don’t think. My understanding was that Van Gelders marks progressed:

    Etched RVG
    Stamped RVG

    My guess would be that this must be from an interval in between the ‘RVG STEREO’ and ‘VAN GELDER’ marks.

    Another question I have is where the Black Trident label fits into the Prestige label sequence. I’m pretty sure I only have one or two pressings which have this label, so it must not have been used for very long.

    • Another site I found dedicated to record labels has this collection for Prestige:

      Looks to me the black label/silver trident appears only in “mid Sixties” ie 1964/5 – after that stereo appears as a variant in Blue Label/Silver Trident and Purple label/Silver Trident.
      Unfortunately these label sites rarely drill down into the really interesting stuff found in the deadwax. Only Blue Note seems to have that level of documentation, so we are pushing boundaries here with Prestige.

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