Steve Turre – Spiritman – Smoke Sessions SSR-1502, 69:55 ****1/2:
(Steve Turre – trombone, shells; Bruce Williams – alto and soprano sax; Xavier Davis – piano; Gerald Cannon – bass; Willie Jones III – drums; Chembo Corniel – congas (on “Nangadef”))
Regarding Steve Turre, the question should be who has he not played with rather than which major jazz musician he has not accompanied in the last three decades. The man can cover it all – Latin jazz, post bop, hard bop, world music, and Afro- Cuban just begins to describe his interests and abilities. As well as being a major force on trombone, Turre has brought conch shells into the jazz repertoire. From playing with Roland Kirk, while a teenager, Steve has been associated with Ray Charles, Santana, Blakey’s Messengers, Chico Hamilton, Woody Shaw, and McCoy Tyner – and I’ll just stop there or we’ll need a few more pages…
Turre’s upcoming release on Smoke Sessions brings him back to his roots – the man can swing and blows some mean blues. Backed by saxophonist Bruce Williams and a first shelf rhythm section, Turre plays a mixture of home grown tunes along with some favorite standards (who can get tired of hearing swinging versions of Horace Silver’s “Peace,” Rodgers & Hart’s “With a Song in My Heart,” and a blending of the title cut with Miles Davis’ “All Blues.”) Turre can honor Blakey with “Bu” while turning serious and outraged with “Trayvon’s Blues.” The constant denominator is a righteous dose of swing.
“Bu” opens the CD and Xavier Davis lays down a funky piano line for Steve and Bruce to expand. Turre’s trombone tone is rich and warm, and digs down deep to honor the masters. Williams’ soprano sax makes a strong impression and blends well with Turre. “Lover Man” fits in nicely next. “Funky Thing” is just that with Xavier Davis taking lead and the horns having a blast. It would be right at home on a classic “Nawlins” stage.
“Trayvon’s Blues” is done as a lament with gospel overtones, channeling anger with sorrow. (We’re seeing more and more jazz musicians “commenting” on today’s shootings of young black men…)
“It’s Too Late Now” is so romantic that it will make couples inch a bit closer if you catch my drift… The Great American Songbook gets a little goosing with upbeat versions of “With a Song in My Heart” and “S’Wonderful” that kick start these standards. I never tire of Horace Silver’s “Peace” and Turre’s version has a sheen provided by Williams’ soprano sax, and Xavier Davis’ sparkling chords.
The title track blend with “All Blues” provides our only chance to experience Turre’s mastery of the conch shells. Blowing the shells over the strings of the piano with the sustain pedal held down helps bring a haunting reverberating version of the Miles’ classic into new territory. It brings to a close a nearly flawless 70 minutes of Turre magic.
TrackList: Bu, Lover Man, Funky Thing, Trayvon’s Blues, It’s Too Late Now, With a Song in My Heart, ‘S Wonderful, Peace, Nangadef, Spiritman-All Blues
Eddie Henderson – Collective Portrait – Smoke Sessions SSR-1501, 68:25 ****:
(Eddie Henderson – trumpet and Flugelhorn; Gary Bartz – alto sax (except on tracks 4, 5, 7, & 9); George Cables – piano and Rhodes; Doug Weiss – bass; Carl Allen – drums)
Dr. Eddie Henderson may not be practicing psychiatry any longer, but he surely knows what ails us, and his prescription of an hour plus of lyricism and modal magic is surely an elixir to cheer up jazz trumpet lovers. On Eddie’s new Smoke Sessions issue he surrounds himself with compatriots that make Collective Portrait a picture of beauty and aural pleasures. Recorded live in New York at Sear Sound’s Studio A, utilizing a Rupert Neve 8038 custom console mixed to ½ inch analog tape using a Studer mastering deck, we are treated to a quintet with living room ambiance.
Eddie is backed by fellow Cooker George Cables on piano and Gary Bartz on alto sax (except for the ballads and “Beyond Forever”). George and Gary go back almost 40 years, while the balance of the rhythm section, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Carl Allen fit right in. Song selection is a mix of Henderson and Cables tunes, along with three tracks from trumpeters that influenced Henderson- Freddie Hubbard’s CTI classic “First Light,” Woody Shaw’s “Zoltan,” and Jimmy Heath’s “Ginger Bread Man,” that became well known as played by Miles Davis. Henderson has often been compared to Miles for his ballad playing, as well as his modal skills.
“Sunburst” with Cables on Rhodes piano will definitely bring to mind the CTI years with heavy modal leanings, and Carl Allen’s assertive drumming. “Dreams” brought me back to Miles’ In a Silent Way period. “Morning Song” from Cables blends funk with a catchy theme laid out by Eddie.
“You Know I Care” from Duke Pearson is romanticism personified. Simply sublime. Eddie’s lyricism is exquisite. Hubbard’s “First Light” follows and swirls and flows with the best of fusion. Eddie’s chops are still razor-sharp and he blows fiery hot. “Together” written by Henderson’s wife of 20 years, Natsuko, shares their special bond.
“Ginger Bread Boy” is a hard bop charger and Cables spurs on both Eddie, and Gary Bartz to fire off one chorus after another of hot blowing. “Zoltan” begins with a march beat by Carl Allen before Eddie and Gary blend in ensemble before they each get solo space.
This new welcome release by Dr. Eddie Henderson keeps alive the recent streak of winning Smoke Sessions releases. This label is now a major player on the jazz scene, featuring largely veteran leaders provided with first class production and backing.
TrackList: Sunburst, Dreams, Morning Song, You Know I Care, Beyond Forever, First Light, Together, Ginger Bread Boy, Spring, Zoltan