How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Hot on the heels of the recently re-issued Stanley Turrentine Blue Note classic, The Spoiler (Sept. 22, 1966), comes the welcome re-release of Easy Walker. Although released as part of the label's "Rare Groove" series, very little of this rare, soulful jazz will be thought of as funk or acid jazz. With the exception of the first track, "Meat Wave," a standard "Sidewinder"-type acoustic groove that opened almost every Blue Note album from the period, this is an easy-going, swinging session that highlights the chemistry between the instantly identifiable tenor saxophonist and the strong presence of pianist McCoy Tyner - who also played on Turrentine's The Spoiler , Mr. Natural (1964) and Rough and Tumble (1966). Blue Note has thrown in some real bonuses too. In addition to all six tracks from the originally-issued July 8, 1966, quartet session, there's "A Foggy Day" (an unremarkable quartet performance featuring Tyner that is one of seven tracks recorded from an unreleased big-band session on July 28, 1967, most notable as Alfred Lion's last supervised session for Blue Note) and four excellent quartet tracks from June 23, 1969, prominently featuring Tyner. The 1969 tracks were first issued in 1981 on an album called Ain't No Way (the title track, which is not included here, is from a 1968 Turrentine quintet session featuring Shirley Scott) and make this CD worth the price of admission at 70 minutes. The 1966 material is good and will surprise few who are familiar with the tenor's Blue Note work. Even the corny "What The World Needs Now Is Love" is given that meaningful charm Turrentine invests in other schmaltz he covers. But "Alone Together" is most representative of the intuition Turrentine and Tyner share for one another's abilities. Makes one wish for a reunion in the 90s (they're both, coincidentally, recording for the Impulse! label now). The two really nail it down during the 1969 session with top-rate tunes ("Stan's Shuffle," "Watch What Happens," "Intermission Walk" and an outstanding performance of Jobim's "Wave") and a cooking, thoughtful passion that is great to hear. Turrentine slows the familiar tempo of "Watch What Happens" and juices up "Wave" so ingeniously that they feel like his own songs. Better yet, both Tyner and Turrnetine attack the songs with their respective signatures and illustrate some of their finest playing of the period. Good stuff.