Roy Haynes – Booker Ervin: Cracklin’ (1963) reanimated



Track Selection: Dorian

.  .  .

“Dorian”, an electrifying modal jazz composition, credited to Haynes’ pianist Ronnie Mathews, sounds as fresh and modern today as it did 1963.

Booker Ervin (ts) Ronnie Mathews (p) Larry Ridley (b) Roy Haynes (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 6, 1963

Mathews name hadn’t registered with me before. New York Daily News described pianist Mathews as “another stalwart figure who has yet to receive proper recognition”. He recorded with Haynes, Hubbard and Max Roach, was at one time a member of Blakeys Jazz Messengers, and more recently, part of T.S. Monk – Thelonious Sphere Monk III –  the group of the percussionist son of Thelonious Monk.


digitalred19631963!! Recorded in one of the most fertile years in the evolution of modern jazz, Booker Ervin combined with a tight rhythm section of Ridley and Haynes, to create an exceptional recording which should be on every jazz-fan’s shelf. Or would be were it not impossibly rare both on original vinyl and even on The Evil Silver Disc.

However, help is at hand, in the shape of a curious reissue which appears to be something else – but isn’t.

Vinyl: Fantasy MPP-2504 retitled reissue of NJLP8286

Sadly, the original New Jazz copy of Cracklin’  purchased on Ebay from the US was inflated by at least two grades, from Fair to VG positive, and threw up some interesting philosphical questions about the exact meaning of the words “does not affect play“.  Having flown ten days and 2,500 miles to me, it was sent packing back to the US on the next flight.


It appeared impossible to find another at a sensible price too. In desperation I even considered TESD, but it seems the CD is long out of print.  Another copy of Cracklin’ appeared on Ebay from the esteemed New York Jazz Centre, but its price went through the roof and I lost it. Then a second copy appeared, but the seller confessed it was one of those Prestige hissy vinyl pressings (my scratched copy had not been hissy, which is both interesting and annoying in equal measure). Then an Ervin Ebay search turned up an obscure Booker Ervin record I didn’t initially recognise, which on closer examination led to a most interesting discovery.

Incomprehensibly, somewhere in the Seventies, Fantasy reissued Cracklin’ under another identity. They chose another track, “Bad News Blues” as the new  face of Cracklin’ , re-positioning it as a “Blues” record. The super-cool original photo of Haynes disappeared and was replaced with a “straight out of Alcatraz” in-your-face mugshot of Haynes and utilitarian black and white cover design, and cheap typography. At this point you might think you are in the world of The Producers’ Spring Time for Hitler. What else can Fantasy do to make it fail –  press it on 100 gram vinyl?  Right, you got it.

Under normal circumstances I would rather a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than a featherweight Fantasy seventies reissue, but these are not normal circumstances. The Fantasy was worth a try, and as I recall, only a few pounds, how can you lose?

A “WTF went on here?” engraving. Really gives you confidence in the pressing plant.

Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay

Sellers Description: a reissue

Bad News Blues can be picked up for small change, an acceptable interim until an original turns up: patience is part of the collector’s long game. Somewhere is a copy of Cracklin’ with my name on it. I don’t know where or when it will turn up, but I believe it will. Only so far, it hasn’t.

I hesitate to admit it, but some of these light-green Fantasy pressings sound not at all bad. Not as good as the original release I had the misfortune to own briefly, but not bad, still has some of the liveliness of the original presentation. The cover I would rather not talk any more about.

UPDATE April 2019

Just a few months ago I chanced on an original  near-mint copy of Cracklin’ on New Jazz, not unreasonably priced but still in three figures, and most important, not tainted by recycled vinyl. I snapped it up, switched my recycled vinyl copy cover around to give me the best of the two, and gifted the recycled copy to a friend who was more than delighted with it. Happy ending. Good things come to those who wait, which in this case was only around four years.


7 thoughts on “Roy Haynes – Booker Ervin: Cracklin’ (1963) reanimated

  1. Brilliant record and I think worth remembering that Fantasy mastering was always excellent even if the artwork was less so – what happened to graphic designers in the late 70s! I suspect this was rereleased because Fantasy had Roy Haynes signed to their Galaxy label at the time – that’s where the picture on the cover is from.
    It reminded me that I bought a purple New Jazz issue of the Haynes’ other Prestige recording ‘Cymbalism’ about two years back – it cost five dollars but I was a little disappointed because I thought it was the one that I really wanted and then realised that that was ‘Cracklin’. Anyway just dug it out and despite it having one hissy side is a very good album.
    I then dug of Ronnie Matthews ‘Doing The Thang’ on Transatlantic’s Xtra label which I haven’t listened too in ages and wow! What a record, Hubbard at the top of his game and some lovely baritone sax by Charles Davis.

  2. The re-named and re-packaged Prestige pressings mystify. I have NM blue label trident copies of Sonny Rollins’ “Jazz Classics,” which is actually Movin’ Out, and “3 Giants!” (with RVG matrix), which is actually Plus 4. They both have horrid covers, tremendous sound, and cost me about 6% of the popsike median of the original records. So I’m secretly kind of glad Prestige butchered the represses, but also sad about it. Mostly just confused.

      • Another good one is Art Farmer, “Evening In Casablanca,” which is really “Art Farmer Quintet Featuring Gigi Gryce.” Really strange re-naming and re-packaging, as “Evening in Casablanca” is packaged as a New Jazz album, but the labels are Prestige blue trident that say Prestige. Heavy vinyl, Van Gelder in the matrix, a VG+ copy for less than 10% of the popsike median for the original Prestige of “Featuring Gigi Gryce.” And the music and sound are wonderful.

  3. This is a great, great session. I knew about the mystery title reissue yet cannot bring myself to put up with this cover. There are a few other renamed reissues put out by Prestige around this time, including the New Jazz LP “Caribe” by the Latin Jazz Quintet with Eric Dolphy (try finding a NM first pressing of that LP!)

    Another infamous renaming that springs to mind is Herbie Hancock’s “Inventions and Dimensions” on Blue Note – one of my desert island discs. This is a very hard LP to find in any pressing in my collecting and for a couple of years I had to settle for a copy of “Succotash” put out under Hancock and Willie Bobo – same exact music (although the sides were flipped if I recall correctly).

    • Thank you for the tip on Caribe, Anon.
      Armed with your advice I walked into a Soho record store this afternoon, arm outstretched like a dowsing rod searching for underground water. It started twitching as soon I approached the jazz racks, and then shaking involuntarily as it hovered over the A-D section. Beneath my outstretched fingers, a copy of Eric Dolphy with the Latin Quintet “Caribe” on Fantasy slowly rose up from the rack. A tiny voice called out “Help! Rescue me. I am no ordinary reissue. The other records all hate me because I am not common like them. Take me home. I’m only $10 but I can make you happy!”. So I did.

      Jeez the cover is if anything worse than the Ervin/Haynes. I wouldn’t otherwise have looked twice at it. Thanks for the tip!

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