Now that he has signed with Telarc, Steve Turre seems to have been freed to follow his instincts in recording the kind of music that has bubbling within him for over 30 years. Even though Turre continues to advance the music, he unfailingly pays tribute to his mentors along the way, those mentors being primarily Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Woody Shaw, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and J.J. Johnson. Turre has absorbed the language of each of these leaders in his own style, and many more, including the Latin feel of Tito Puente and Andy Gonzalez. As a result, his Telarc CD's so far have been broken into thirds: one third Latin, one third free and, one third traditional swing, bop or blues.
TNT extends his triple approach by recording with three tenorsthus, the "TNT": "tenor-n-trombone."
While David Sanchez and the addition of Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion illuminate the Latin-influenced numbers like "Puente Of The Soul," the breakdown of styles between James Carter and Dewey Redman becomes murkier. For Carter possesses such a comprehensive knowledge of his instrument that he can refer to a vast range of tenor sax progenitors within the space of a single solo. And Dewey Redman, whom one would expect to be free, plays in a sweeter and lighter harmonic style on "Stompin' At The Savoy" than one would expect.
You have to give Turre credit for knowing the musicians he works with and for understanding their styles. For Turre goes against type on "Stompin' At The Savoy" by going back to Redman's early roots in the big band era when he was starting out in Dallas. On the other hand, "Dewey's Dance," a triple-metered original tune, engages Turre and Redman in songs as if by two voices. Both musicians take extended solos on the tune, as does Stephen Scott, Lewis Nash cushioning the tune with an eddying sweep.
As one listens to the CD, it becomes evident that Turre is interested in the expressive possibilities of the trombone as he rips through an exciting solo on "Puente Of Soul" with triple-tonguing and attention-grabbing assertions. On "The Nearness of You," Turre emphasizes the singing capabilities of the instrument, unhurriedly unfolding his story through song throughout the entire range of the instrument. And on "Hallelujah I Love Her So," his tribute to his earlier mentor Ray Charles, Turre uncharacteristically picks up the plunger mute in tribute to the great Al Grey to add the comical attitude and wah-wah sound that makes the instrument unique. And...the shells are nowhere to be heard.
Besides backing up Redman, the rhythm section consisting of Stephen Scott, Peter Washington and Lewis Nash accompanies Sanchez when he joins Turre on two of the tracks. Having met as part of Dizzy Gillespie's United Nation Orchestra, the two hornmen dig into "E.J." in addition to "Puente Of Soul." The modal structure of "E.J." (honoring Elvin Jones) provides not just Sanchez and Turre, but also Scott, the opportunity to stretch out in extended solos capturing the spirit of Jones' percussiveness.
And then there's James Carter, who follows his instinct to push a solo as far outside the envelope as he can before pulling back. As Turre says, "He's fearless. He goes where the spirit takes him. He knows the whole history of the music, yet he's still James." That description certainly is true on TNT, even on a slow number of low expectations like "The Nearness Of You." After Turre's fairly conventional statement of the melody, Carter loosens his embouchure to add an exaggerated vibrato and to improvise between the conventional tones with a slipperiness that keeps the listener on edge. On Stanley Turrentine's hard-bop "Back In The Day," Carter personalizes the tune with a hard swing, altissimo exclamations, snap and groove. Backed by the exceptional rhythm section of Mulgrew Miller, Buster Williams and Victor Lewis (who joined Turre on his tour paying tribute to Kirk), the group remains within the pocket even as they follow the spirit of the moment that inspires their solos. On "Eric The Great," in particular, all of the members of that group can be heard individually as outstanding soloists, as well as masters of cohesion.
Like Turre's last album, In The Spur Of The Moment,TNT displays the richness of the trombone, as well as the appeal of the matched tenor voicings. Rather than remaining within a single genre, Turre once again shows the versatility of his instrument.
Track Listing: Back In The Day, Puente Of Soul, Stompin' At The Savoy, The Nearness Of You, Hallelujah I Love Her So, Eric The Great, E.J., Dewey's Dance
Personnel: Steve Turre, trombone; James Carter, Dewey Redman, David Sanchez, tenor sax; Mulgrew Miller, Stephen Scott, piano; Buster Williams, Peter Washington, bass; Victor Lewis, Lewis Nash, drums; Giovanni Hidalgo, congas, timbales, campana