Beginning with 1974's popular Pieces of Dreams (Fantasy), sugar man Stanley Turrentine began to assume more control of his own recordings. That album turned out to be quite a hit and for the most part since, the tenor great has stuck to mostly commercial settings. But despite the often simple material or occasionally unnecessary sweetening, Turrentine consistently rises above his circumstances with that sumptuous signature sound and his always appealing bluesy swing.
Do You Have Any Sugar?, Turrentine's first disc since 1995's quite good T Time (Music Masters) and his debut for Concord Vista, is a welcome return that's sweet and soulful in a sort of Grover Washington way. Turrentine, most often framed by Steven Boyd's unfussy songs or untricky arrangements, is in top form. He sticks to differing small groups throughout, tastefully supported by subtle electric instrumentation (bass, guitar or keyboards) and on the disc's best tracks, gets paired with a complimentary horn (in this case, Andy Martin's trombone or Rick Braun's trumpet).
Turrentine's precision soulfulness remains impeccable throughout, even when the music threatens to become a bit too smooth. On each song, he muses with expert and inviting beauty, assailing each groove as if his trademark sound glides with effortless passion from the clouds. One could wish the material wasn't always as slick. But there is plenty worth hearing here. Especially notable are Turrentine's CTI-like riff, "Back In The Day," the Grover groove of "Favorite Heart" and two (!) catchy "So What" knock-offs by Steven Boyd and Chuck Hoover, "Keep On Keepin' On" and "Stuff You Gotta Watch" (the latter featuring bassist Ray Brown). Vocalist Niki Harris (Gene's daughter) is appealing enough on the radio-fodder of "Calling You," "Pause To Wonder" and the you-already-know-the-answer title cut. Of course, Turrentine continues to shine brightest on ballads (as he showed on Three of A Kind's fabulous 1994 Minor Music disc, Meets Mr. T ) and offers a beauty here in "Far Too Little Love," which also features the simply wonderful Joe Sample on piano.
More pleasant than provocative, Do You Have Any Sugar? is similar to the tenor great's best work ( Blue Hour, Let It Go, Don't Mess With Mister T, Pieces of Dreams ) in the way it perfectly complements the most romantic of settings: appetizing, but not too filling.
Songs:Keep On Keepin' On; Do You Have Any Sugar?; Stuff You Gotta Watch; Far Too Little Love; Pause To Wonder; Favorite Heart; Calling You; Back In The Day; 2 RBs; Monte Cristo; Bar Fly.
Players:Stanley Turrentine: tenor saxophone; Niki Harris: vocals; Mike Miller: guitar; Rick Braun: trumpet; Andy Martin: trombone; Kei Akagi, Joe Sample: piano; Steven Boyd, Greg Phillinganes: keyboards; Ray Brown, Abe Laboriel: bass); Harvey Mason: drums, drum programming; Alex Acuna: percussion.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.