It's been over two years since Montreal-based saxophonist Dave Turner debuted his new quartet, which finds the longtime altoist making an exclusive switch to the baritone instrument. With trombonist Dave Grott sharing the front line, the quartet may have looked bottom-heavy on paperbut it's proven to be a soulful and rich-sounding unit, aided by the young up-and-comer Vanessa Rodrigues on Hammond B3 organ.
After the 2004 festival season, which included a terrific performance at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival
, Turner expanded the group to a quintet with the addition of guitarist Kenny Bibace and hit the studio to record Earth Tones
. This album has been long in coming, but it's been worth the wait.
Turner's an old-school player, so while the disc emphasizes original material (Turner wrote five of the seven tunes), its vibe is akin to an updated Blue Note soul/jazz session from the 1960s. Instead of dwelling on complex composition, the group focuses on grooving tunes that give everyone plenty of solo space, ranging from the ambling swing of "Skip to the more energetic "Fortitude and Self-Denial, the shuffling "The Lady with the Silver Horn, and the gentle yet evocative ballad "Commissioner Symonds. There's a strong emphasis on the blues here. Rodrigues updates Shirley Scott and Jimmy Smith territory; Bibace works in the vicinity of Grant Green, Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery. So there's no shortage of heartfelt playing.
Precious few artists make the baritone their main axe, but Turner's deep tone and deft solo construction make that more the pity. And while Turner and Grott spend a lot of time exploring the lower registers, most notably on the visceral intro to Edward Redding's swinging "The End of a Love Affair, they're nicely balanced by Rodrigues and Bibace. Rodrigueswhose own self-released Soul Project (2005) was more overtly contemporary, though founded in the same originsis slightly more restrained on record than in performance, but she understands the B3's textural capabilities and knows how to work hand-in-hand with Bibace as accompanists who never tread on each others' toes. Both she and Bibace are players to watch on the Canadian scene.
Unassuming, unconsidered and refreshingly honest, Earth Tones is an album of mainstream soul/jazz that's sure to appeal to anyone who likes their jazz easygoing but substantive.
Personnel: Dave Turner: baritone saxophone; Dave Grott: trombone; Vanessa Rodrigues: Hammond B3; Kenny Bibace: guitar; Jim Hillman: drums.