Friday, February 23, 2018

Blue Hour – Stanley Turrentine with The 3 Sounds

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The editorial staff at JazzProfiles has plans to include more about tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine in a future feature about “the Texas Tenor style.”

“The Texas Tenor style” is defined by Ted Gioia in The History of Jazz as:

“A blues-drenched tenor sax style … characterized by honking’, shoutin’, riffin’, riding high on a single note or barking out a guttural howl.” [p. 341]

In fairness to Stanley, his allegiance to this style of playing tenor saxophone is a much more subtle one and has more to do with tone and phrasing than with the specific characteristics of the style as contained in Ted’s description of it.

No bar walkin’ or jumpin’ in the air and coming down doing the splits for Stanley.

Orrin Keepnews in his insert notes to James Clay’s Double Dose of Soul [Riverside RLP-9349/OJCCD-1790-2] states it this way:

“For Clay becomes the most recent addition to a long tradition of outstanding tenormen from the big state (among them: Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, Budd Johnson, most of whom seem to share the same compelling Texas ‘moan’ in their tone).”

[For the record, although Stanley was born in Pittsburgh, PA, I still think of him as a “Texas” Tenorman and include him in this style of playing. His first influence on the horn was Illinois Jacquet].

Jerry Atkins in his magnificent treatment on the subject for The International Association of Jazz Record Collector’s IAJRC Journal [Vol. 33, No.2, Spring 2000] puts it more succinctly when he states:

“What is a Texas Tenor? In the world of Jazz, it’s a saxophonist born in or near the Lone Star State and playing with uniqueness in sound and ideas that many have tried to describe.”

Jerry includes in his essay on Texas Tenormen, Herschel Evans, Buddy Tate, Budd Johnson, Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Don Wilkerson, Booker Ervin, John Hardee, James Clay, David ‘Fathead” Newman and Michael Ivery.

I first encountered Stanley Turrentine’s work on Blue Hour [Blue Note 24586/7243 5 24586 2 2] on which he is paired with The 3 Sounds [Gene Harris, piano, Andy Simpkins, bass and Bill Dowdy, drums].

We requested copyright permission from Ira Gitler, who prepared the original liner notes for the album when it was released in 1960 and from Michael Cuscuna who prepared its release on CD in 1999.

Following their annotations, you will find a video which contains a an audio track from this classic album.

If the one of the ideals of Jazz artists is the creation of an instantly identifiable sound, than one need to look no farther than Stanley Turrentine as the embodiment of this signature quality.

One note and you know it’s him.

© -  Ira Gitler, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“DO you remember Longfellow's Children's Hour? Well, this is the blue hour and it's not for children. The blue hour is that early morning time when you "reach across the pillow where your baby used to lay" (part of an accurate blues lyric once sung by Rubberlegs Williams) and fail to find her (or him) there. It is when the lonely automobile sounds from the street below, the reflection of the neons and the elongated shadows on the wall, all serve as reminders of the solitary state.

If there is one thing that simultaneously reiterates the painful facts and serves as balm for your bruised soul, it is music. Specifically, the blues are about the most powerful combination of purgative and emollient that there is.

Blues are like the people who create them, products of their environment. The blues in Blue Hour are not the raw, urgent, rural blues. Nevertheless, they are genuinely bluesy even if not cast in the usual 12-bar mold. They are representative of what is commonly known as the "blues ballad," blues or blues-inflected songs with a bridge.

This genre grew popular in the '40s, especially around the large cities. You heard it both in the repertoires of the big bands and the small combos.

Although the blues ballad has mainly been the property of vocalists, many of the melodies are so attractive that our modern jazzmen began to play them during the '50s. The best of this type of song has always contained the warmth of the blues coupled with romantic elements from the "popular" tune. Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell For You" (sister Ella Johnson made this one especially convincing) is an excellent example.

"Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" goes back to the 40s when some memorable versions of this Don Redman tune were done by Lips Page and Nat Cole. Old Count Basic fans will remember Jimmy Rushing's original vocal plea of "I Want A Little Girl."

While never thought of as a blues ballad, "Willow Weep For Me," qualifies by its strong blues feeling, even though it approaches the category from another direction than, say, the "Don't Cry Baby" that Jimmy Mitchelle did in the '40s with Erskine Hawkins.

The only 12-bar blues of the set is "Blue Riff" by Gene Harris. The tempo is a bit faster than any of the other slow-grooved selections but it is in the same relaxed mood.

No detailed explanation is needed to tell you about the treatment of these songs here. The simple act of listening will be self-explanatory.

The horn that fills Blue Hour with minutes of azure, cobalt, cerulean, navy, sky and Baby; Baby, is the tenor saxophone of Stanley Turrentine. Although only in his late 20s, Turrentine has a warmth of style associated with the players of an earlier period. His first inspirations were Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas and it is obvious that he learned some valuable lessons from them.

Stan's full-bodied tenor is ideally suited to the material here. Presently with organist Shirley Scott's group, he is perhaps best-known for his work with the Max Roach Quintet during 1959-60. It should be known, however, that he played with Ray Charles in 1952 and Earl Bostic in 1953. Jobs like these were actually long-range preparation for a date such as Blue Hour.

Since Turrentine's first Blue Note LP as a leader (Look Out! BN 4039) and his numerous appearances as a sideman on this label with Horace Parian, Arthur Taylor, etc., he has drawn nothing but high praise from a variety of critics. His direct, honestly emotional playing, embodying elements of the old and the new, pleases a wide scope of listening taste.

The fly, funky threesome known as The Three Sounds is very familiar to Blue Note listeners. In essence, this trio is an export of Benton Harbor, Michigan and a product of Indiana. Pianist Gene Harris and drummer Bill Dowdy were born in the Michigan city. Bassist Andy Simpkins was born in Richmond, Indiana, the state where the group was formed in South Bend in 1956. In addition to their own albums on Blue Note, the Sounds also did a set backing Lou Donaldson.

The wedding of Turrentine and The Three Sounds is the work of an astute matchmaker. Their insinuating, down stylings are a perfect complement to Stan's tenor. If he is the hands of the clock which tells us the blue hour, the Sounds are the inner works with Harris the sweep second hand.

This album has to make you feel good even when you are really brought down. You don't have to shake well before using. Use it freely; its healing powers won't diminish. And if your baby happens to come back and you're feeling all right again, it won't hurt to enjoy Blue Hour together, even at twelve noon.

— IRA GITLER original liner notes”

© -  Michael Cuscuna, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“STANLEY TURRENTINE was a member of Max Roach's quintet and had just made an album of his own for Time Records when he made his first Blue Note appearance on a Dizzy Reece session in April 1960.

Although that session was not issued until 1999 (Dizzy Reece's Comin' On), he clearly made an incredible impression on Blue Note's Alfred Lion, Francis Wolff and Ike Quebec. Three weeks later, he was in the studio with Jimmy Smith making the amazing Midnight Special and Back At The Chicken Shack albums. Two months later, he made the first of many albums of his own for the label (Look Out! with the Horace Parian trio), followed by his first session with The Three Sounds (tracks 4-8 on this CD). That summer, he returned for Blue Note sessions with Horace Parian, Dizzy Reece, Duke Jordan and Art Taylor. The year 1960 closed with a second session with The Three Sounds, which produced the original Blue Hour (Blue Note 84057).

Clearly Turrentine's juicy, soulful tone, rhythmically hip phrasing and wonderful melodic ideas were what Blue Note was all about. And for the next nine years, he
recorded a succession of wonderful dates for the label as a leader and as a sideman. (He would also return when the label was reactivated in 1985.)

Gene Harris, Andrew Simpkins and Bill Dowdy first came together as The Four Sounds (with a succession of tenor saxophonists) in South Bend, Indiana in 1956. Paring down to a trio, they worked around Ohio playing as a trio and supporting traveling artists, toured with Sonny Stitt and then settled in Washington, D.C. where they began to make a name for themselves as a trio.

Horace Silver was among the first to sing their praises and bring them to Blue Note's attention. In September 1958, they came to New York to open for the volcanic Stuff Smith at the Offbeat Club. Impressed by their ability to find and lock in on a groove, Alfred Lion immediately signed them to Blue Note and brought them into the studio to make their first album Introducing The Three Sounds. Nat Adderley also used them that month as the rhythm section on his Branching Out album with Johnny Griffin.

When they returned to town in the next February to make their second album Bottoms Up, Alfred Lion also paired them up with Lou Donaldson for the superb LD + 3 album. When Stanley Turrentine came into the fold in 1960, he became an ideal candidate for the same concept. He had the same range and soul that made The Three Sounds one of the most popular trios of its day.

So on June 29, 1960 the day after the trio cut "Moods" and "Feelin' Good," they returned to the studio to record with Turrentine. According to his session notes, Alfred Lion was worried that Stanley Turrentine sounded better than the trio that day. The date ended after five tunes with a notation that they would use the then-untitled blues, "Where Or When" and "There Is No Greater Love" and finish the album later.

Two days after the trio recorded "Here We Go" and "It Just Got To Be," on December 16, 1960 they reconvened with Stanley. This time, once they hit a groove, the session sailed by effortlessly and yielded more than enough material for an album.

Oscar Pettiford's "Blues In The Closet,' "Just In Time" and a strong alternate take of"Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You" were left in the can.

The album Blue Hour was released and became an instant classic in the canon of both Turrentine and The Three Sounds. The extra material from that session and the first session are what make up the previously unissued second CD on this set.

Although the prolific Three Sounds stayed with Blue Note until June 1962, they had no more encounters with special guests except for a single track with Ike Quebec on which Gene Harris switches to organ (recently issued for the first time on The Lost Sessions). In October of that year, they made two albums for Verve, one of which, oddly enough, was a collaboration with Anita O'Day. In December, the trio began a series of albums for Mercury/Limelight, some of which included orchestral accompaniment.

When they returned to Blue Note in 1966, the drum chair was occupied by Kalil Madi (followed by Donald Bailey, then Carl Burnett). Andy Simpkins left in 1968 and his chair was filled by Henry Franklin. While they continued to add orchestral backing for studio albums, that funky, hard-driving trio sound remained at the core of the group's identity and appeal. Some of their most rewarding sessions in those years were live recordings at the London House (Limelight), the Lighthouse and the It Club (Blue Note).

It would have been great to hear The Three Sounds with Stitt or Gene Ammons or any number of like-minded saxophonists. But at least we have their collaborations with Lou Donaldson and Stanley Turrentine to enjoy and now we have twice as much music from their meetings with Stanley.