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Stanley Turrentine: Look Out!

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Stanley Turrentine was a more sizable force on the tenor saxophone than many jazz fans realize. His tone on the instrument was big and broad, his attack was powerful and his soulful feel was largely unmatched. There was a bluesy brashness and satiny swagger to Turrentine's sound, and his “peel out" just before launching into a solo was always exhilarating. And yet, he's not taken as seriously as, say, Hank Mobley or Joe Henderson.

His first leadership album for Blue Note was Look Out! Recorded in June 1960, the album is a superb entry point for those looking to explore the Turrentine catalog. The session featured a fabulous trio—Horace Parlan (p) George Tucker (b) and Al Harewood (d). The inclusion of Parlan, alone, makes this an exceptional album. I'm hard-pressed to think of another saxophonist and pianist who were as perfectly suited as these two. On their albums together, Turrentine's bossy tenor invariably gave way to a solo by Parlan, who, like Red Garland, would unleash bluesy motifs with his right hand and punctuating chords with his left, building to a dense, block-chord release.

The blues came naturally to Turrentine, who began his career in R&B bands of the early 1950s. He entered the military mid-decade, where he was exposed to his sole formal music training. After his discharge, he joined Max Roach's band and recorded several albums with the drummer. In 1960, Turrentine married organist Shirley Scott, which became a musical union as well. [Photo above of Stanley Turrentine by Francis Wolff (c) Mosaic Images]

By 1971, the pair divorced and Turrentine began recording for CTI, releasing Sugar, Gilberto with Turrentine, Salt Song, The Sugar Man, Don't Mess With Mr. T and other albums that became major hits with the advent of FM radio and more affordable stereo systems.

With Scott, Turrentine recorded a string of superb albums in the '60s, including Hip Soul, Hip Twist, The Soul Is Willing, Soul Shoutin' Queen of the Organ and others. Also top-notch were Midnight Blue with Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd's Up With Donald Byrd, Duke Jordan's Flight to Jordan, Jimmy Smith's Back at the Chicken Shack and Horace Silver's Serenade to a Soul Sister. But for me, albums such as Look Out!, with Horace Parlan on piano, remain sterling examples of jazz at its best in the 1960s and beyond.

Stanley Turrentine died in 2000; Horace Parlan died in 2017.

JazzWax clips: Here's Look Out!, the title track...



Here's Return Engagement...



And here's Journey Into Melody...



Bonus: Here's Turrentine and Shirley Scott playing On a Clear Day from Turrentine's Let It Go (1966), with Ron Carter (b) and Mark Simpkins (d)...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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