Steve Turré first saw Roland Kirk performing almost forty years ago. The Spirits Up Above
is a long-overdue homage to the Vibration Society's leader by one of its most distinguished alumni. Furthermore, this is a 24-bit engineered, mixed, and mastered recording by Rudy Van Gelder.
Turré, sans seashells, offers only one original composition on this record. "One For Kirk features a straightforward swing and bouncy mid-tempo arrangement with a sticky melody, finding pianist Mulgrew Miller, altoist Vincent Herring, and bassist Buster Williams soloing under the trombonist's own leads. The mellow-toned horn front line is a charm kept deeply pocketed, as elsewhere throughout the date, by Winard Harper's drumming. The latter's touch, taste, timing, and swing are a treat. Then again, variations of the same theme would have to be used to describe the job rendered by the drummer's companions on this noteworthy record.
Turré sets flutist Dave ValentÃ-n loose on "Medley: Serenade to a Cuckoo/ Bright Moments. His zinged brand of fluting meshes superbly with the various hip motifs, offering, among other things, a study in contrast with James Carter's flute performance in "Stepping Into Beauty which drips hints of melodicism among its surrounding superbly plucked, brushed, and slide exquisiteness. ValentÃ-n's powerful and aggressive delivery, however, is manifested through and beyond his signature avant-roots cries and vocalizations as a soloist. Turré's performance, which at times resembles a muted stringed section, must be considered carefully, as should Miller's guajeo at the coda and Williams' walk and strut through it all.
When listening to the virtuosic soprano runs of Herring on the title cut and "Hand Full of Five, Carter's rough-hewn commanding tenor issuances, Miller's weighty and lithe piano playing, and the cavernously profound rhythmic intensity of both bassist and drummer, one could be tempted to overlook the reasons why Kirk was instantly taken in by Turré's talent. Don't be!
Track Listing: 1. Three for the Festival (R. Kirk) 2. One for Kirk (S. Turre) 3. Medley: Serenade to a Cuckoo/ Bright Moments (R. Kirk) 4. Stepping Into Beauty (R. Kirk) 5. The Spirits Up Above (R. Kirk) 6. Hand Full of Five (R. Kirk) 7. Dorthaan's Walk (R. Kirk) 8. E.D. (R. Kirk) 9. Volunteered Slavery (R. Kirk)
Personnel: Bass: Alto & soprano sax: Vincent Herring. Buster Williams. Drums: Winard Harper. Flute: Dave Valent