Steve Turre: Rainbow People (2008)
If the rainbow of the title denoted musical diversity then it would be most fitting in the case of trombonist Steve Turre, as his musical bag is hewn from many colors. Turre is equally at home playing Latin rhythms, blues or straight-ahead jazzhardly surprising when you consider his apprenticeship with saxophonist/flautist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and singer Ray Charles, his collaborations with timbalist/bandleader Tito Puente and pianist Hilton Ruiz, and his long associations with trumpeters Woody Shaw and Dizzy Gillespie, and pianist McCoy Tyner. All these influences are felt on Rainbow People, a classy and deceptively leisurely session which finds Turre in sparkling form.
Part of the success of Rainbow People surely lies as much in the familiarity of the musicians with one another as in the strength of Turre's arrangements. Turre has played with all these musicians in various settings over many years, with the exception of trumpeter Sean Jones, whom Turre hired on the spot after seeing him perform at a New York jam session.
Jones is used sparingly, playing on three of the nine tracks, combining harmonically with Turre to great effect. His sound shifts between warm and honey-toned on "Para El Commandante, and more biting on "Midnight in Madrid." Similarly, saxophonist Kenny Garrett appears on just four tracks, but his playing is strong and he builds his solos with patience and imagination. On Charlie Parker's "Segment," Garrett stretches out a little more, as might be expected.
The soulful blues of "Brother Ray" is probably one of the best tributes to Ray Charles since the singer's passing in 2004, evoking the voice and spirit of the man. Turre takes two intimate solos, the first on open trombone and the second mutedthe latter coming after a tasteful bass intervention from Peter Washington, and capturing the plaintive cry that Charles exhibited in his blues. Miller provides beautifully sympathetic accompaniment which reveals the gospel/blues side of his playing.
The rhythm section of Washington and drummer Ignacio Berroa swings the music throughout Rainbow People. They drive the goodtime blues vibe of "Groove Blues," which has the feel of a more languid version of "Sweet Home Chicago," with Garrett, Miller and Turre each taking enjoyable solos. Miller, for his part, is also in fine form, playing to the needs of the music beautifully. He injects the spirit of McCoy Tyner into the music, and the influence of Coltrane's great pianist on Turre is reinforced further by the inclusion of Tyner's lovely "Search for Peace."
Turre's Latin roots shine on "Midnight in Madrid," with its brassy Iberian bravura and just a hint of Turre's Mexican heritage, and on the impressive session-closer dedicated to Latin great Mario Rivera, "Para El Comandante," on which Turre's conch is given a delightful run for the only time on the album, over a tasty salsa rhythm.
The blues is at the heart of Rainbow People and the songs are like a heartfelt, mellow incantationgospel praise to guiding lights. Classy, sophisticated, and soulful.
Track Listing: Rainbow People; Forward Vision; Brother Ray; Groove Blues; Midnight in Madrid; Cleopatra's Needle; Search for Peace; Segment; Para El Comandante.
Personnel: Steve Turre: trombone, shells (9); Kenny Garrett:alto saxophone (1,4,8,9); Sean Jones: trumpet, flugelhorn (2,5,9); Mulgew Miller: piano, keyboards; Peter Washington: bass; Ignacio Berroa: drums; Pedro Martinez: percussion (9).