Stanley Turrentine: Four Classic Albums

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The Turrentine brothers (Stan and older sibling Tommy) are somewhat forgotten these days so it’s nice to have this reminder of Stanley’s work from Avid. Both men were hard-bop and soul-jazz stalwarts in the late 50s and 60s but trumpeter Tommy, who died in 1997, largely withdrew from the scene after the 60s, although he did continue to gig and record occasionally. Stanley died in 2000 having returned to the fold – his association with Creed Taylor and his commercial crossover success for the CTI and Fantasy labels in the 70s had led to a good deal of critical disapprobation. His tone and his grounding in R&B and hard-bop ensured that there was something of interest in many of these recordings, but overall they had little to offer purist jazz-fans. He subsequently unblotted his copybook with a return to the jazz mainstream, but even then he sometimes came up with some dispiriting recordings.

This set is taken from his time with Blue Note, preserved in the excellent sound of Rudy Van Gelder’s New Jersey studio. I doubt if anyone would claim that Stanley T was one of the greats or an original, but he customarily delivered workmanlike and generally satisfying music, and his sessions for Blue Note were probably his finest, as demonstrated here. On the Look Out and That’s Where It’s At sessions he plays with well-focused assurance, confidently displaying his range, from classic soul-jazz to bustling bop, sometimes detouring into atmospheric and sensitive ballad-playing. I believe it’s called “taking care of business”. 

Blue Hour finds him sharing billing with The 3 Sounds. The jaunty “Blue Riff” is the only pukka 12-bar blues here, but Harris’s opening solo on “I Want a Little Girl” (the old Jimmy Rushing number, of course, not the Edwardian music-hall song) takes proceedings way back in the alley, presaging several deep midnight-blue contributions packed with reflective phrases and richly soulful chording. Turrentine uses the husky edge of his tone to touching emotional effect on “Since I Fell for You” and “Willow Weep for Me”, where he finds a convincing personal slant. 

However, for me the most engrossing playing comes from Scott on the Dearly Beloved album. She was married to Turrentine during the 60s (they divorced in 1971) and they made a well-matched musical team.  On this session she is on fearsome form – her accompaniments and solos are funky, robust, well-structured and compelling, provoking especially soulful playing from her colleagues.

Discography
CD1: [Look Out] Look Out; Journey Into Melody; Return Engagement; Little Sheri; Tiny Capers; Minor Chant [Dearly Beloved] Baia; Wee Hour Theme; My Shining Hour; Troubles of the World; Yesterdays; Dearly Beloved; Nothing Ever Changes My Love for You (80.48)
CD2: [Blue Hour] I Want a Little Girl; Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You; Blue Riff; Since I Fell for You; Willow Weep for Me; [That’s Where It’s At] Smile, Stacy; Soft Pedal Blues; Pia; We’ll See Yaw’ll After While, Ya Heah; Dorene Don’t Cry; Light Blue (79.07)

Turrentine (ts) with:
(1) Horace Parlan (p); George Tucker (b); Al Harewood (d). Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 18 June 1960.
(2) Shirley Scott (org); Roy Brooks (d). Same venue, 8 June 1961.
(3) Gene Harris (p); Andrew Simpkins (b); Bill Dowdy (d). Same venue, 16 December 1960.
(4) Les McCann (p); Herbie Lewis (b); Otis Finch (d). Same venue, 25 April 1960.
Avid Jazz AMSC 1319