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Rabshakeh

Stanley Turrentine and similar Masters

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I recently got a friend who enjoys and listens to a lot of the more well known jazz musicians into Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note era). He is the type of listener who likes backstory and narrative, and has been asking me awkward questions about him, his style and, for want of a better term, his place in the GRAND NARRATIVE of JAZZ HISTORY.

I realise that I don't actually know anything at all about Stanley Turrentine, outside of the records and the fact that he was married to Shirley Scott and had a brother called Thomas who had a trumpet, and that he started at Blue Note and then went to CTI. I don't think any history of jazz I have ever seen has even mentioned his name, who his inspirations were, etc.

Stylistically, I have always placed him in what I think of as "Ammons music". Uplifting blues based hard bop that doesn't quite step into soul jazz. Likewise Ike Quebec, Sonny Stitt (when wearing his blues hat), Blue Mitchell or Lou Donaldson (in his early Blue Note heyday). This unnamed style seems to slip between the cracks when it comes to critical attention (contemporary or retrospective), other than by reference to the "Jug Phenomenon" (itself rarely mentioned by the Gioias of the world) or Jimmy Smith. I have tried Bob Porter's book, but even that book is quite Prestige and Ammons heavy.

So, two questions:

First, the specific one, where did Turrentine himself come from, musically, both in terms of influences and immediate peers? 

Secondly, what is the relationship between this wider network of players - particularly players like Lou Donaldson and Gene Ammons? Were there any particular figures, groups, industry events, A&R networks, or hit records that stand out that might have inspired or caused them to coalesce around this sound? On this second question, I am particularly interested in hearing the recollections of those forum members who were lucky enough to be there are the time.

Thank you, in advance.

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I think, that besides the fact, that BN was on top of Hardbop in the 50´s Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Blakey Messengers etc. ) , Modal and a bit into "free" by Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Sam Rivers and so on, and besides that those " boogaloo hits" like Sidewinder and Midnight Creeper and so, but also kept in a kind of tradition, which is not necessarly typical hardbop, it´s somehow "swingin´ mainstream" . 

I must admit that the "mainstream corner" from BN is the lest interesting for me personally. Things like "The Three Sounds", the Turrentine albums, the Ike Quebec albums and so on .... let´s say I have some of them and can enjoy them, but it is not necessarly what I want to hear to really pay attention to what is happening. It´s great music and great players, no question, but if I have to choose between a Turrentine album and a Jackie McLean album what do you think I would prefer ? 

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Stanley Turrentine played American Black Music. As such, there was many ingredients involved. But to get a total picture of who he "was" - from his time with Max Roach to his slurpy Elektra records and back again...it's all some form and/or fashion of American Black Music. That's where it came from, that's where he came from. That's Where It's At....

So yeah, study your Sonny Rollins, but study your Sam Cooke too. Study your Charlie Parker, but study your Dinah Washington too. Etc. These are not different musics, they're different manifestations of the same greater vocabulary. Study the vernacular singers and there you go.

And I guess it goes without saying that he's not the only one. Don't trust anybody who tries to tell you about this type of music and tunes out on the singers. That's just wrong.

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While born in Pittsburgh, I place Turrentine in the Texas Tenor tradition. He had the same blues cry and grit in his tone that I associate with Fathead and Arnett Cobb among others. I am not really sure why the OP keeps him shy of "soul jazz" especially when considering the number of organ-tenor albums he made.

In terms of the grand narrative, Mr. T was, I think, a lot like Ammons in his level of popularity in the black community, if not in specific terms of "hits" that the critics writing the narrative can't be concerned with him.

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12 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

While born in Pittsburgh, I place Turrentine in the Texas Tenor tradition. He had the same blues cry and grit in his tone that I associate with Fathead and Arnett Cobb among others. I am not really sure why the OP keeps him shy of "soul jazz" especially when considering the number of organ-tenor albums he made.

In terms of the grand narrative, Mr. T was, I think, a lot like Ammons in his level of popularity in the black community, if not in specific terms of "hits" that the critics writing the narrative can't be concerned with him.

I have a term for music like this - BlueBop. It's a totally organic language and environment. And of all the musics I love, this one is kinda what I grew up with (once I grew out of the Pop Culture Commercial Training Music I was born into...you go from Radio Music into different "crossovers" and then once you get anywhere into "real jazz", this is the most common of common grounds, a truly natural language that doesn't have to "fuse" or "incorporate", it fits into anything because it is everything. You can play it with a singer, you can play it without a singer, you can play it for dancing, you can play it for listening, you can play it EVERYWHERE.

Of course, that only works if the community from which it so richly sprung/springs continues to exist...same as with any organic music...and on that point, times change, don't they...

 

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Tommy Turrentine more than "had a trumpet".

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5 minutes ago, jlhoots said:

Tommy Turrentine more than "had a trumpet".

Very much this, although the topic is his more successful/famous brother.

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I think there was an element of dryness in that Tommy T. comment.

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There really were two Stanley T’s, no?

Obviously two sides of the same coin, but his fast, bop-ish playing, brimming with ideas — seemed almost distinct from what he brought to his soul jazz sessions. (No value judgement implied, and I’m not exactly trying to suggest his soul jazz playing was ‘lacking’ — even if I’ll admit a preference for the former).

He did seem like two different players — or his playing on different kinds of dates even within the same year — could easily be mistaken for being two different people.

Here’s one, with Stan firing on all cylinders right out of the gate…

vs a different, more soul and swingin’ approach…

 

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1 minute ago, Rooster_Ties said:

There really were two Stanley T’s, no?

No!

That sound of his is ALWAYS there, and a sound is that from whence all else issues. It's one of the most identifiable sounds ever.

So no - only one Stanley Turrentine, certainly quite capable of having different conversations, but always with and in the same voice.

 

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1 hour ago, jlhoots said:

Tommy Turrentine more than "had a trumpet".

Sorry. I didn't mean it to be taken as a disparaging comment on Tommy Turrentine. My point is that there is very limited discussion of his brothers, and that this is one of the few details out there. It was meant just as a joke. 

1 hour ago, Dan Gould said:

I am not really sure why the OP keeps him shy of "soul jazz" especially when considering the number of organ-tenor albums he made.

I guess it is soul jazz or it isn't. Like early Lou Donaldson or the 3 Sounds or Gene Ammons. But whatever they're playing sounds slightly slightly different to that later 1960s soul jazz bracket that flows out of it. I like the "bluebop" and "swinging mainstream" ideas. 

1 hour ago, Dan Gould said:

While born in Pittsburgh, I place Turrentine in the Texas Tenor tradition. He had the same blues cry and grit in his tone that I associate with Fathead and Arnett Cobb among others. 

I find this interesting, as I associate him with Ammons and Chicago. Probably as a result of the exact same associations.

Edited by Rabshakeh

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

So yeah, study your Sonny Rollins, but study your Sam Cooke too. Study your Charlie Parker, but study your Dinah Washington too. Etc. These are not different musics, they're different manifestations of the same greater vocabulary. Study the vernacular singers and there you go.

Ha! This was basically my response to my friend, in different words. Largely because I hear so much church music and blues in Turrentine's playing. (Someone mentioned Fathead - same applies.)

These players are right there in the centre of the continuum that then gets packaged as blues, jazz, gospel, soul, R&B or whatever depending on the target audience and route to market. Who is to say that Ray Charles and Lonnie Johnson aren't jazz, but Jimmy Rushing yelling over Basie or Lester Bowie playing 80s pop is; whilst Louis Jordan either is or isn't, depending on who you're trying to impress?

However, I still don't think that's all of it. These "blues/bop" players emerged from that continuum and were recorded in that style at a specific point in time. Who were the individuals who led the way, or the events (artistic, commercial, personal?) that caused recordings of this sort to be perceived as potentially lucrative and to be released?

Perhaps it was just the effect of Parker re-entering the swing/ mainstream/ blues bloodline as bop became less specialised and more widely diffused, but you'd still expect to be able to point to leaders and milestone records, like you can with Jimmy Smith and the explosion of soul jazz on the organ, or (going much earlier into the same musical continuum) Blind Lemon Jefferson and the growth of unaccompanied guitar blues.

Edited by Rabshakeh

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11 minutes ago, Rabshakeh said:

I guess it is soul jazz or it isn't. Like early Lou Donaldson or the 3 Sounds or Gene Ammons. But whatever they're playing sounds slightly slightly different to that later 1960s soul jazz bracket that flows out of it. I like the "bluebop" and "swinging mainstream" ideas. 

Genres, labels, brackets, etc....don't fall for that trap. These were real people in real time, not names on a seating chart. :)

If you limit your perception to parts without considering the whole...that's one way to do it, but is it the best way?

Not for me, but YMMV.

But look at all the different types of tunes Stnley played over his lifetime, look at all the settings hiw appeared in. Ig there was a Venn Diagram of pre-Free tenor, The one where all the circles converge, that's pretty much Stanley Turrentine. And the less aware you are of all the different circles that are intersecting, the less dense the intersection will appear to be.

 

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51 minutes ago, Rabshakeh said:

There is very limited discussion of his brothers

Plural? Who else, besides Tommy?

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5 minutes ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Plural? Who else, besides Tommy?

Sorry. Spelling error. Unless there's a third Turrentine brother who never really made it on the dulcimer.

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15 minutes ago, Rabshakeh said:

However, I still don't think that's all of it. These "blues/bop" players emerged from that continuum and were recorded in that style at a specific point in time. Who were the individuals who led the way, or the events (artistic, commercial, personal?) that caused recordings of this sort to be perceived as potentially lucrative and to be released?

Gene Ammons was popular pretty much from jump (and his two-tenor group with Sonny Stitt was apparently quite popular as a touring attraction). There were a lot of other players playing in that style, though, it was just natural, the climate was right. Late-40s, early-50s, R&B had not yet become "Rock & Roll" (and never did, really, but that's another story...). Ray Charles was never considered NOT jazz, at least not when I knew, but he was never JUST jazz. Once again, Black Music, but not JUST for Black People, at least eventually. And I believe that Stanley did a bit of a stint with Ray. I know he did the Lowell Fulson gig. People like to think that those are different musics from jazz, but from the inside, it's all variations of the same language. Different dialects, different accents, at times even different purposes, but still, the same language.

Not to simplify, but it was simply (sic) Black People playing Black Music for Other Black People.  And there's never NOT been a market for that!

Here's the one review I wrote for All About Jazz (20 years ago!) that kind of touches on this in the course of a record that definitely does:

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/vocal-blues-and-jazz-volume-four-1938-1949-various-artists-document-records-review-by-jim-sangrey

 

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Thanks. An interesting review.

8 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Gene Ammons was popular pretty much from jump (and his two-tenor group with Sonny Stitt was apparently quite popular as a touring attraction). 

I hadn't realised it was a touring group. I had it in my head that Ammons was very Chicago based, and made a record with Stitt as he passed through, then some more when that turned out to be a hit. That's the sort of "event" I'm thinking about. Similar to the example of Jacquet's famous solo on the Hampton record that you mention in that article.

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Ammon/Stitt was a touring band (at least for a little while). Illinois Jaquet's band, same thing. James Moody's outfit, same thing. "little big bands" wit arrangements and routines, the whole presentation thing. They worked.

To give you some kind of a possible idea....I had a buddy back in the day who said that his mother had an autographed picture of Gene Ammons that he says that she got when he played in Tyler, Texas in the early 1950s. Never saw it, nor ever met her, but that's really not the kind of thing a person makes up, I'd think. Just like the stories about James Brown playing Gladewater, Texas at Reba's Moulin Rouge in the 1960s.

In many ways, Black Music is the best documented aspect of Black Life from these times, even going back to the "territory bands". If all you learn about is the records...there's so much more to this music than just the records....

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Jim's objection to seating charts notwithstanding, I am curious if others hear similarities between Turrentine's sound and the Texas Tenor tradition.

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4 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

Jim's objection to seating charts notwithstanding, I am curious if others hear similarities between Turrentine's sound and the Texas Tenor tradition.

Definitely a similarity in contents, but the "Texas sound" is a little, for lack of a better word, "broader" in timbre. Not always, but often enough. Still, Turrentine and Fathead have a helluva lot more in common than do Turrentine and, say Rollins. Personally, I think it's a matter of both temperament and practical experience. Turrnetine played in those travelling blues/R&B bands, Sonny didn't. You play that music, you learn the language, not just the words, but how to speak them.

But Benny Golson (for one) did. Lots of people did, Johnny Griffin with Joe Morris, exceptional. But Griff & Golson already had their basic "home" sounds to begin with. Is there a Pittsbugh tenor sound? I'm not really aware of one (which means nothing...). Pittsburgh is more of a "piano town", right?

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As part of some Max Roach listening I've been doing recently, I came across two recordings of the 1960 band with Stanley and Tommy Turrentine in the front line:  "As Long As Your're Living" (Enja 4074) and "Max Roach - Again" (Affinity AFF 32).  I'm not a Stanley Turrentine enthusiast but those recordings are very interesting and Stanley's work bears interesting comparison with the George Coleman work that immediately preceded it in Max's band, not so much for the sound but for the fluidity and the confidence with which Stanley handled Max's up tempo pieces.

Also...

There is a documentary on the Pittsburgh jazz scene called "We Knew What We Had - The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told".  It's been on PBS.  It's extraordinarily revealing unless you already know that Kenny Clarke, Ahmad Jamal, George Bensen and the Turrentine brothers all came out of Pittsburgh.  And that's the beginning of a very long list.

The film doesn't dwell on the Turrentines but it covers them and there is pointed commentary on the different courses of their careers.  The Tommy Turrentine piece was of particular interest to me since he appeared on Archie Shepp's "Mama Too Tight" and Shepp compared him to Fats Navarro in the liner notes.

There is indeed more here than meets a first listening of "That's Where It's At" or "Hustlin".  Somewhat to Jim's point...and then to some other points...

 

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Mike Cuscuna's notes to ln Memory Of in the 'rainbow series' talk about all of this better than I can, and Mike Roznek's notes to Mr. Natural aren't bad either.  I agree with JSngry that it's one voice, no matter the setting.  for the record I own everything Stanley did for Blue Note, leader and sideman, and some on other labels too.  Given anything at all to work with, Turrentine would find the music in it and make it his own too.  Like Grant Green, like all the truly great players IMHO.

He and Gene Ammons were coming from similar yet distinct places, and jazz histories that ignore them are woefully lacking.

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Remember, Jug was in the Eckstine band! so much Prez in there...

 

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11 hours ago, Rabshakeh said:

Sorry. Spelling error. Unless there's a third Turrentine brother who never really made it on the dulcimer.

I once read a reference in some jazz book to a brother named Marvin who supposedly died in Vietnam, although I actually looked on the wall and did not see his name.

Whether Marvin also was a musician, I do not know.

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