Archive for Blue Note Records

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 Preview: Saturday on the Main Stage – It’s a Blue Note REVIVE-al

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2015 by curtjazz
Derrrick Hodge (photo by John Rogers)

Derrrick Hodge
(photo by John Rogers)

As regular visitors to this space know, I’ve long been of the opinion that if jazz is going to be relevant in the future, many traditionalists must make peace with the hip-hop and R&B influences that many of today’s most gifted young musicians come from. Most of these young cats respect the “tradition” but they didn’t grow up with Tin Pan Alley in their ears. What they bring to the table is often fresh and quite creative.

We will see a lot of that on display on Saturday, May 23 at the 38th Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage. It will open at 1 PM with Daniel D., a popular contemporary jazz violinist who plays a lot of Hip Hop and R&B chart hits. He will be followed at 3PM by The Rad Trads ,an energetic horn powered group based out of NYC. They specialize in an up-tempo mix of R&B, New Orleans Jazz and funk. Their fun stage shows have garnered them a ton of recent buzz.

But the big draw for me will begin at 5 PM, as REVIVE – an online music hub and concert promotion team, which specializes in the fusion of classic styles, such as jazz, with today’s ideas and genres – joins forces with Blue Note Records, that most venerable of jazz labels, to present an evening of true modern jazz. Featured will be three of the new generation of Blue Note artists, who will bring us jazz, from their perspective of “the mainstream”.

5 PM – Marcus Strickland and Twi-Life

Marcus Strickland has collaborated and recorded with an impressive list of musicians, including Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, and Jeff “Tain” Watts. But one of Strickland’s longest musical collaborations is his most impressive one, as Mr. Strickland  was asked while still in college, to join legendary drummer Roy Haynes’ Fountain of Youth band. He played tenor sax with Haynes for five fruitful years.  He has also garnered some major awards from the jazz press, having won the Rising Star on Soprano Saxophone in Downbeat’s 2012 Critic’s Poll; Rising Star on Tenor Saxophone in Downbeat’s 2010 Critic’s Poll; Rising Star on Soprano Saxophone in Downbeat’s 2008 Critic’s Poll and Best New Artist in JazzTimes 2006 Reader’s Poll. His 2011 double CD set Triumph of the Heavy – Vol. 1 & 2, was one of our selections for Best Jazz Album of 2011.

In addition to his acclaimed acoustic jazz work, Marcus Strickland has also been heavily involved with Twi-Life, an electric band with its inception rooted in the soul music Strickland grew up listening to. Mr. Strickland has said that he tries to keep the personnel in Twi-Life fluid, so that the ideas and creativity will remain fresh.  The current members of the group have worked have worked individually with artists like Kanye West, & Bilal. They include keyboardist Yuki Hirano; bassist Mark Kelley who is also a member of The Roots; drummer Charles Haynes; and on vocals Jean Baylor, who some of us will remember from the 90s R&B duo, Zhané (“Hey Mr. D.J.”; “Groove Thang”). Expect great things Saturday as Strickland and Twi-Life, bring together the improvisation of acoustic jazz and instrumentation with the rhythms that have made much of today’s music so popular.

7 PM – Otis Brown III

Otis Brown III is one of the busiest young drummers in jazz today. The son of musicians and music educators, Brown grew up to the sounds of jazz, gospel, funk and rhythm and blues. His father, a jazz band instructor, played with James Brown and Al Green. His mother, an educator who also served as principal at Newark’s Arts High School (alma mater to jazz greats Sarah Vaughan and Wayne Shorter), was also a choir director and classically trained pianist.  After playing saxophone and drums in school and church, Mr. Brown attended Delaware State University as music major, where he met the great trumpeter Donald Byrd who advised young Otis to go to NYC and dive headlong into the jazz scene. Brown did and he soon caught the attention of Joe Lovano. After initially subbing for Lewis Nash and the late Idris Muhammad in Lovano’s band, Brown became a member of Lovano’s Us Five quintet, where he developed  a strong musical kinship with the group’s bassist, Esperanza Spalding, who then asked Brown to join her band as well. Brown has also worked with Terence Blanchard, Oliver Lake and the vocalist, Somi, among others.

Last year, Otis Brown III released his first album as a leader, The Thought of You, on Revive/Blue Note Records. With support from such kindred musical spirits as Robert Glasper, trumpeter Keyon Harrold, bassist Ben Williams  and vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Bilal and production by Derrick Hodge, the album is a shining example of some of the best work that the new breed of new jazz artists has to offer. It featured edgy improvisations, tunes that were unafraid to stretch boundaries and rhythms that were refreshingly contemporary. It stayed on regular rotation in my iPod from its release throughout the rest of 2014. It was also one of my Best Jazz Albums of last year. We’re looking forward to hearing Mr. Brown deliver the goods, with tracks from The Thought of You and more.

9 PM – Derrick Hodge

Closing out the second night of AJF38 will be Derrick Hodge. Another of Blue Note’s group of “New Jack Jazz” artists, Hodge has appeared previously on the Atlanta Jazz Festival stage in 2012 in one of his other roles, as bassist in the Robert Glasper Experiment. As usual with jazz musicians of his age and talents, Mr. Hodge has played with a diverse array of artists including Terence Blanchard, Jill Scott, Maxwell and the late Mulgrew Miller. He has also released a well received Blue Note album of his own, 2013’s Live Today, (a CurtJazz.com Best Jazz Albums of 2013 selection) which featured appearances by Glasper, hip hop superstar Common, Marcus Strickland, pianist Aaron Parks and turntable artist Jahi Sundance.  Like the recent work of Mr. Glasper, Mr. Brown and Marcus Strickland, Hodge is clearly looking to all of his various influences on Live Today and he’s also taking advantage of many of the possibilities that our digital age affords him. One of the album’s tracks, “Table Jawn”, includes sounds recorded on Hodge’s wife’s iPhone as Hodge, Glasper and drummer Chris Dave, were sitting at Hodge’s kitchen table. One person grabbed a spoon, another a cup and then they began to beat out a rhythm which Mrs. Hodge recorded and it was then used as the basis of the tune.

While we don’t expect any cutlery or place setting items to be directly used in the making of music on Saturday night, there’s likely to be a similar dose of creativity.  The type of music that I’ve often called “the future of jazz” will be on display in full glory all throughout the day on the AJF38 Main Stage, thanks to REVIVE and Blue Note Records. So, to quote the late actor, Ted Ross as he closed out an old Heath Brothers live album “May the rest of the populace be sophisticated enough to dig it”.

Tracks from all of these and other AJF 38 artists will be playing daily from 5 PM – 7 PM (ET) on our 24/7 streaming jazz station Curt’s Café Noir, until May 31. Click HERE to access the station.

For more information on the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website http://atlantafestivals.com

 

 

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Horace Silver – A Video Memorial

Posted in In Memoriam, Video Vault with tags , , , on June 20, 2014 by curtjazz

Horace Silver (1928 – 2014)

horace silverThough Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva (which he later changed to “Silver”) penned and performed some of the most enduring compositions in jazz history, I don’t think that during his lifetime, he received the respect that he deserved.  Perhaps it was because many of his compositions, while they used interesting time signatures and complex rhythms, were also often infused with a good dose of soul and R & B influence; something which immediately makes many so-called “serious jazz scholars” turn up their collective noses. But Horace Silver did something that many of the more lionized critical darlings could never do; he made uncompromising jazz that also was able to speak to the masses.

From his days alongside Art Blakey in the original Jazz Messengers right into the early part of this century, Mr. Silver continued to create music that could reach the head, the heart and in many instances, even the feet. He recorded for Blue Note Records from 1952 until the label went into a temporary hiatus in 1979, longer than any other artist in the label’s history.

And what a rich partnership it was; with classic albums such as A Night at Birdland; Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers; Finger Poppin’; Tokyo Blues; Serenade to a Soul Sister and Song for my FatherHis compositions during that time included, “Sister Sadie”; “Peace”; “The Preacher”; “Senor Blues”; “Strollin'”; “Nica’s Dream” and so many more. Like Blakey, Silver also nurtured the careers of many young players in his bands, who then went on to make their own mark on jazz. Over the years, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Blue Mitchell Bennie Maupin and Louis Hayes all spent part of their formative years working in one of Mr. Silver’s groups.

Though slowed by ill-health and dementia over the last five years, Mr. Silver’s art still made him a formidable presence in the jazz world. I will refer you to the excellent New York Times obituary by Peter Keepnews for an in-depth retrospective of the man and his career and to Mr. Silver’s informative, if occasionally inscrutable 2006 autobiography Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty for additional details. I will leave you with a few performance clips from his prime in the ’60’s and my undying gratitude to a man whose music will always be a part of my life.

More Halloween Jazz (Still No Tricks, Just Treats)

Posted in The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2013 by curtjazz
"Musically Reclined" on visualparadox.com

“Musically Reclined” (c) visualparadox.com

This is a sequel to my Halloween Jazz post of a couple of years ago. Though to my knowledge no jazz artist has recorded an album of tunes related to this spookiest of holidays, there are some tracks whose titles, if nothing else, lend themselves to a celebration of All Hallows Eve. Here are four more:

“Be My Monster Love” – David Murray [From Be My Monster Love – Motema Records – 2013]

The title track to saxophonist David Murray’s latest album is pure scary perfection thanks in part to the creepy and witty lyrics by Ishmael Reed that are given a letter-perfect reading by Macy Gray. Ya gotta love a tune with a line like “Suck me until I’m anemic/Until I can’t get out of bed/Until the doctors give me up for dead”. And the tune swings like mad too, which adds to the fun. Ms. Gray has said that she dabbled as a jazz singer prior to embarking on her successful pop career. She sounds right at home here and we’d like to hear more. Marc Cary is right on the money on piano and Mr. Murray, known mostly for his avant-garde work, is terrific on this fairly mainstream number.

“Dracula” – Grant Green [From Green is Beautiful – Blue Note Records – 1970]

Another performance that celebrates a groovin’ Prince of Darkness. This one is from the great guitarist’s 1970 album Green is Beautiful. By now Green was firmly entrenched in the funky sound that would dominate his latter years. Written by organist Neal Creque this track is elevated by the first-rate solos of the sidemen, including Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Claude Bartee on tenor and Emmanuel Riggins on organ. Green doesn’t solo until about three minutes into the track and his statement is way too brief but it does demonstrate that the master still had plenty left in the tank at this point in his all too brief career.

“Frankenstein” – Jackie McLean [From One Step Beyond – Blue Note Records – 1963]

Now this is what I’m talking about! McLean was starting to dabble in free jazz by this point and those experiments inform this performance. He still hasn’t broken free of the conventional boundaries but his movement toward them is strong enough to give this track a bit of a scary vibe. It’s jazz with a nice infusion of the macabre. I would have loved to have heard this cut on the soundtrack of a really hip Frankenstein movie, with maybe Lenny Bruce as The Doctor and Godfrey Cambridge as The Monster. Nice solos from McLean, trombonist Grachan Moncur III (who wrote the tune) and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes.

“Thriller” – Joey DeFrancesco [From Never Can Say Goodbye (The Music of Michael Jackson) – HighNote Records – 2010]

The most prominent jazz organist of our time dropped a tribute disc to the music of “The King of Pop” a couple of years ago. It was honestly a hit and miss affair but quite a bit of it worked, such as this track. My only quibble is that I would have perhaps liked a guest vocalist instead of Joey D on the Vincent Price “rap” but hey he was in the groove and it was his date so who was going to stop him. Besides, his organ solo is a killer, which is no surprise. A lot of fun and a Halloween no brainer.

Album Review: Derrick Hodge – Live Today

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2013, CD Reviews with tags , , , on August 3, 2013 by curtjazz

The following review first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine

Derrick Hodge

derrick hodge - live today

LIVE TODAY – Blue Note Records B 001847702 www.bluenote.com  The Real; Table Jawn; Message of Hope; Boro March; Live Today; Dances With Ancestors; Anthem in 7; Still The One; Holding Onto You; Solitude; Rubberband; Gritty Folk; Doxology (I Remember)

PERSONNEL: Derrick Hodge, acoustic and electric bass, keyboards, percussion, table beats, synthesizers, lead bass distortion, fretless bass, synth bass, vocals; Common, vocals; Chris Dave, drums, percussion, table beats; James Poyser, keyboards; Travis Sayles, synthesizers, keyboards, Hammond B3 Organ; Jahi Sundance, turntables; Keyon Harrold, trumpets, flugelhorn; Marcus Strickland, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Corey King, trombone; Robert Glasper, keyboards, acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, table beats; Mark Colenburg, drums, percussion, snare drums, quads; Aaron Parks, acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes; Casey Benjamin, vocoder; Alan Hampton, vocals, acoustic guitar; Martha Caplin, violin; Sophia Kessinger, violin; Sarah Adams, viola; Mark Shuman, cello;

By Curtis Davenport

If jazz has a future, then this is it.

Though many of my generation and older may not like to hear that and some will even almost fight to the death to deny it, let’s face facts.  Young cats like Robert Glasper, Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge, Keyon Harrold and their contemporaries are playing music today that is influenced as much by hip-hop as it is by bebop; which is not a bad thing.  They didn’t grow up with the Great American Songbook in their ears so why do so many “jazz people” get apoplectic when these young guys play to their influences? Granted, early marriages of jazz and hip-hop were often clumsy and downright awful, but these guys and others have learned from the earlier mistakes and refined these stylistic mergers into something that is new, fresh and respectful of all of their musical influences. And most important, it works. The sound is compelling and exciting.  Hip young people are beginning to listen and even a few “old heads” such as this writer have come around. This is the sound of “Real Jazz” in the 21st Century.

Bassist Derrick Hodge is known mostly for his work as a member of Robert Glasper’s forward-looking group. He was a major contributor to Glasper’s 2012 breakthrough album Black Radio.  However, he has worked across multiple genres over the last decade supporting a wide range of artists from Gretchen Parlato and Mulgrew Miller to rapper Common and gospel singer Marvin Sapp. Live Today is his debut as a leader. Though it is cut from much of the same cloth as Glasper’s album, Hodge doesn’t have as many big name guest stars and he eschews cover versions of familiar pop tunes. What he does have are songs and arrangements that are complex, challenging and fresh.

The direction of this album is announced right away on “The Real”, a busy amalgam of horn blasts, synthesizers, turntable scratches and sampled voices making statements all held together by Hodges powerful bassline. It’s as close as I’ve heard to nailing the essence what those seeking the hip-hop jazz fusion have probably been looking for. Things really kick into high gear a few songs later on the title track. Glasper opens it by sounding a subtle “alarm” with a repeated piano figure. He is then joined by guest star Common, whose tone here summoned memories of the late Gil Scott-Heron in his prime. The track is spare, only Glasper, Hodge and drummer Chris Dave back Common; yet it feels remarkably dense, as Common coolly brings forth rhyme after rhyme. I could easily listen to a whole album of these cats flowing like that. The great vibe continues with the next track “Dances with Ancestors”, which features Harrold’s muted trumpet and Hodge on both acoustic and electric bass, while Aaron Parks on piano and Travis Sayles on the B3 play off of each other as they improvise the background. It’s mysteriously beautiful. “Anthem in 7” allows the leader to come to the forefront and remind us that he is one of the best young bassists around as he riffs over the complex time signature. On “Solitude” Parks and Hodge trade intricate solo statements, backed by a lush string quartet; the presence of Parks and Glasper throughout the album helps Hodge to put all aspects of his musical personality on display. The disc closes with a nice bow to Mr. Hodge’s upbringing in the church, “Doxology (I Remember)”, anyone with a similar background (such as this writer) will feel a smile of homecoming creep over their face as Hodge bows the familiar theme (“Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow…”) followed by Sayles organ. It’s a fitting end to this fine effort.

According to Hodge’s recent statements, he did not enter the studio with intricate parts written out for each musician. The compositions were purposefully left in a basic sketch state so that arrangements would occur organically; thus the title of the album. Miles Davis famously employed a similar strategy over fifty years ago on the sessions that created Kind of Blue. We all know now the influence that that album had on jazz. I’m not saying that Live Today will be as memorable in the long run but it’s certainly bold enough to inspire other young musicians who will follow.

Album Review – Blanchard’s “Magnetic” Attracts Positive Attention

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 28, 2013 by curtjazz

Magnetic coverIt has been thirty years since Terence Blanchard first hit the jazz scene as Wynton Marsalis’ handpicked replacement in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and then lead a memorable “young lions” quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison. Since then, Mr. Blanchard has scored over 40 films, including all of Spike Lee’s since Mo’ Better Blues; been nominated for eleven Grammys® (and won five); served as artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz; been a first call sideman and led his own group that has recorded twenty albums. In addition, Mr. Blanchard’s first “Opera in Jazz”, Champion, about the life of the late boxer Emile Griffith, recently premiered in St. Louis.  Suffice to say that Terence Blanchard has been quite busy. His twentieth album also marks his return to Blue Note Records for which he last recorded 2007’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) for which he won the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy.

His new album, titled Magnetic, features ten original compositions, all by Mr. Blanchard or the members of his latest quintet; Brice Winston on saxophone, Fabian Almazan on piano, Kendrick Scott on drums and 21-year-old newcomer Joshua Crumbly on bass. In addition, there are guest appearances by bass legend Ron Carter, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane (son of a legend) and guitarist Lionel Loueke (likely to be a legend). Blanchard has been experimenting with a number of styles, from classical to Latin to hip-hop on some of his recent recordings. Though those experiments were always interesting and often successful, it’s great to find him on Magnetic, back at his base in what is essentially a first-rate post-bop blowing session.

The title track kicks things off. It’s a knotty mid-tempo piece, peppered with staccato horn blasts and various electronics including Blanchard’s use electronics which at times give his trumpet a guitar like sound. “Pet Step Sitter’s Theme Song” has a mellow funk rhythm over which the group lays down some exploratory solos with Ravi Coltrane’s tenor runs being the highlight, Blanchard’s electronic trumpet sounding like a keyboard and Loueke’s guitar comping in the background. Lionel’s vocalizing and chord runs are subtle at first, then grow in prominence to give the piece a shift in direction. Drummer Scott contributed the hard-driving “No Borders, Just Horizons”, which opens with a powerful two-minute drum solo and then moves surprisingly into a Latin swing over which Blanchard blows one of his best solos on the album before turning things over to Winston’s tenor, which is also in fine form. “Central Focus”, which Blanchard originally recorded on his Simply Stated album twenty years ago and it makes welcome return here with Blanchard showing what he has learned in the ensuing two decades and Scott setting a beat that is impossible to ignore. Winston’s “Time to Spare”, which he originally recorded on his debut solo album three years ago, appears here in an improved version. Winston is more confident and his tenor runs, which show the influence of Joe Henderson, are more self-assured.

The highlight of highlights is “Don’t Run” which features the great Ron Carter on bass and Ravi Coltrane on soprano sax. The tune takes its title from a joking admonition that Carter made to Blanchard to “Stop running from me, man”, when the trumpeter would suggest that they work together. “Don’t Run” is 7 ½ minutes of jazz awesome, with Blanchard, Coltrane, Carter and Scott, just blowing their brains out. Coltrane starts it; with one of his best solos on soprano that I’ve heard to date. Blanchard comes behind him, clearly intending to not be outdone and Carter, is his usual Hall of Fame self.

Magnetic is a mature and winning artistic statement from Terence Blanchard and his quintet. He demonstrates that in spite of the film work, the operas, the Broadway scores and the other things that divide his attention, he remains one of the best jazz trumpet players working today and that he has the recordings to back it up.

Unsung Women of Jazz # 5 – Jutta Hipp

Posted in Unsung Women of Jazz with tags , , , on September 11, 2011 by curtjazz

Jutta Hipp (1925 – 2003)

As Hipp…matured artistically, she had defined her own artistic standards and revolted when pressured to record music she did not like. She also suffered from severe stage fright throughout her career. Thus being the featured artist at a large performance venue was more of a daunting chore for Hipp than a joyful public celebration of her talent.” – All About Jazz

The lore of jazz is filled with stories of musicians of prodigious gifts who appeared on the scene in a starburst and disappeared back to whence they came just as quickly; leaving behind perhaps a few recordings and the often faulty memories of those who worked with them. Pianist Jutta Hipp epitomizes these musicians.

Ms. Hipp was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1925.  She learned to play the piano as a child, but in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War she studied painting at the Leipzig Kunstakademie. By this time her interest in jazz had begun.  When the Soviets took over what would become East Germany in the late ’40’s, she moved with her family to Munich. There, Jutta began to play piano professionally, starting her own group. In the early 50’s, she joined a group led by saxophonist Hans Koller. 

During her early days, Ms. Hipp copped to being influenced by great swing pianists, like Basie, Teddy Wilson and Fats Waller.  However, by the time she reached Munich, she had heard Bud Powell and was fully in his thrall.  There was also a bit of Lenny Tristano in her attack, although Ms. Hipp always brushed aside those comparisons.  Jutta led her own quintet in Frankfurt in 1953-1955 and recorded for several labels, including a session that was later released by Blue Note.

It was now time to come to America.  Jutta Hipp arrived in New York in November 1955. Her immigration to the United States was sponsored by jazz critic Leonard Feather who had discovered Hipp while visiting Germany and was “blown away” by her talent.   Ms. Hipp played at the famous Hickory House for much of the first half of 1956 and within a few months, she became the first white female as well as the first European instrumentalist ever signed by Blue Note Records. Hipp cut three albums as leader for Blue Note in 1956.  The first two of those were live trio albums recorded during her six month stint at the Hickory House, with British bassist Peter Ind and Ed Thigpen, known for his years with Oscar Peterson, on drums.  Hipp was by now expressing a fondness for the blues drenched style of Horace Silver, which does show a bit on these first two records. 

The most famous of the Blue Note recordings featured the great tenorman Zoot Sims as a co-leader.  Sims made a perfect musical partner for Hipp and they sound as if they had played together for years. On this record, the Silver influence had disappeared – in fact she seems to have developed her own ingratiating style, that is mature and swings hard.  She followed this recording with a successful appearance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival and looked for all the world to be on her way.  Unfortunately, the Sims album was Jutta Hipp’s last known recording.

Two things served to scuttle her musical career. First, she suffered from stage fright. Playing in anything other than an intimate venue, before an appreciative crowd left her virtually paralyzed.  This made bookings in large rooms and additional appearances at large festivals impossible. Second, she had no interest in recording music that she did not like.  Feather tried to get her to record some of his songs in late ’56. Jutta refused, causing a permanent rift in their professional relationship, which, considering Feather’s influence in the jazz scene of the time, was not good for her career.

By 1958, Jutta Hipp had left the jazz world for good. She never married.  She remained in New York for the rest of her life; supporting herself as a seamstress at a factory in Queens. She painted scenes of street life in Queens. Hipp also was a fine photographer, who took many shots of her favorite Long Island beaches and of the musicians playing in the NYC and Long Island jazz clubs where she continued to attend concerts when the mood hit her. Such was her loss of contact with the music world, that Blue Note did not know where to send her royalty checks until 2000.

Jutta Hipp died in her Queens apartment on April 7, 2003 of pancreatic cancer.  She died without family or friends to help her. Shortly before her death, she had been discharged from the hospital into the care of some neighbors in her apartment building, one of whom was a nurse .  She had insufficient funds for a burial or a funeral, and she willed her body to Columbia University, for scientific research.

It was a sad and lonely end for a wonderful musician, whose talent had touched many during her brief period in the spotlight.

Recommended Recordings:

Obscure Trumpet Masters #10 – Tommy Turrentine

Posted in Obscure Trumpet Masters with tags , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by curtjazz

Tommy Turrentine (1928 –1997)

As a trumpet soloist Turrentine had all the qualities necessary for greatness. He had a full, warm tone throughout the range of the instrument and possessed the ability to create solos using long unbroken lines. His flair for melodic improvisation using long climaxes often contrasted sharply with the more disjointed creations of younger men who seemed anxious to brush aside convention. – Alun Morgan

He was the older brother of one of the most famous jazz musicians of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. His kid brother recorded dozens of albums, including a few that are fondly remembered as classics. He was every bit the musician that baby brother was. Yet Stanley Turrentine is a bona fide jazz legend, while Tommy Turrentine, who recorded only one album as a leader in his entire career, is unknown to all but ardent jazz fans and the many musicians who still marvel at his gifts, both as a trumpet player and as a composer.

Thomas Walter Turrentine, Jr. was born in Pittsburgh in 1928, six years before Stanley.  He joined Benny Carter’s Big Band at eighteen. In his early twenties, he played with Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie and briefly with Count Basie.  He and Stanley then joined Earl Bostic in 1952 for a three-year bid. 

In 1959, the Turrentine brothers received their first major exposure when they joined Max Roach’s quintet. There, Tom and Stan took part in some enduring works, including Quiet as it’s Kept; Abbey Lincoln’s Abbey is Blue  and the drum battle Rich vs. Roach.  In 1960, while with Roach, he also recorded his first (and last) album, the eponymous Tommy Turrentine.  He was backed by his Roach bandmates plus pianist Horace Parlan.  Tommy Turrentine’s compositions took center stage, as he wrote five of the seven tracks on this solid and swinging date, which went unnoticed for the most part.

(Tommy Turrentine plays “Time’s Up”,  from Tommy Turrentine)

Ironically, Tommy Turrentine drew more attention for his work as a sideman, subsequent to his own album.  Stanley signed with Blue Note in 1961.  Tommy came along as a sideman on Stan’s first Blue Note album Comin’ Your Way.  Tommy also wrote the track “Thomasville” for that record; one of his most enduring compositions.  Tommy was not done yet for Blue Note; that year as he also played on and/or contributed tunes to  Parlan’s On the Spur of the Moment and Up & Down;  Jackie McLean’s A Fickle Sonance and Sonny Clark’s classic Leapin’ and Lopin’ .  In 1962-63, he added Stanley’s Jubilee Shout!!!, That’s Where it’s At and Never Let Me Go; Big John Patton’s Blue John and Lou Donaldson’s The Natural Soul to his performing and writing credits. 

(“Sow Belly Blues” from Lou Donaldson’s The Natural Soul. Tommy Turrentine – trumpet)

Though he was the technical equal of Blue Note’s rising trumpet stars Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan, he wasn’t as personally brash as those two. Perhaps that intangible was the missing element that kept Tommy Turrentine from greater prominence. He was also said to suffer from some health problems that curtailed his work. Whatever the reason, Tommy Turrentine pretty much faded into obscurity by the mid ‘60’s; around the same time that Stanley was rising towards the pinnacle. 

(From Sonny Clark’s Leapin’ and Lopin’ – “Midnight Mambo” – Tommy Turrentine; composer and trumpet)

He would appear on a few albums (including interestingly enough, one with Sun Ra in 1988) and at a few club dates here and there, but by the ‘70’s, Tommy Turrentine, the musician, was in semi-retirement, with his wife, in his New York City brownstone.  Tommy Turrentine, the composer, the teacher and the mentor, never stopped working however, until his passing in 1997.  Like Idrees Sulieman (Obscure Trumpet Master #9) he wrote many compositions that went unperformed and were published by Don Sickler’s Second Floor music.  The four that are included in Brian Lynch’s Unsung Heroes series, are all memorable. 

(From Unsung Heroes; Vol.2 – Brian Lynch Sextet debuting Tommy Turrentine’s “It Could Be”)

His knowledge of jazz and the people who played it is one of the reasons why, though the public’s favorite Turrentine was Stanley, many musicians still remember Tommy with great respect and fondness.

(Tommy Turrentine from the NYPL’s Jazz Oral History Series (1993))

Recommended Recordings:

This is the final post in the Obscure Trumpet Masters Series. I’m humbled to know that so many jazz fans and musicians have taken the time to read all or part of this labor of love.  Special thanks to Brian Lynch, Dave Douglas and Jason Parker (three modern-day trumpet masters who deserve to be heard more often) for their words and tweets of encouragement.

I also appreciate the suggestions from everyone, for other fine artists who should be on this list. Since this was never intended to be an exhaustive study, I knew that there would be many great, underappreciated players who would not be mentioned. But I say to fans of trumpet masters such as Dupree Bolton, Richard Williams, Guido Basso, Tomasz Stanko, Howard McGhee and many others; y’all have given me some food for thought and additional study. Hmmm…perhaps there will be a second series.

Thanks again to all of you!