Tenor saxman Stanley Turrentine is the rare artist who's equally comfortable playing pop-jazz and straight-ahead jazz. While most of his albums have stuck with one style or the other, Do You Have Any Sugar?
bounces successfully between both genres.
Pianist Kei Akagi shines on the more mainstream tunes, while singer Niki Harris (daughter of pianist Gene Harris and ex-backup singer to Madonna) displays impressive pipes on some of the contemporary cuts. Five of the 11 tracks on Sugar
are straight-ahead numbers, and five are in the smooth-jazz vein. The bluesy "Bar Fly" could be classified as either.
Seven tracks were co-written by keyboardist Stephen Boyd, but Stanley Turrentine is the glue that holds this seeming hodgepodge together. At age 65, he doesn't blow with the same soulful energy that he displayed during his prime. However, there's a kind of intuitive earthiness to his playing on Sugar
. Joe Sample, Ray Brown, Harvey Mason, Alex Acuna, Greg Phillinganes and Abe Laboriel also lend their coveted talents to the recording.
I prefer the straight-ahead material to the smoother fare, although the latter is well crafted. Favored cuts include "Keep On Keepin' On" and "Back In The Day," a couple of mid-tempo swingers that have a Crusaders-like soul-jazz feel, thanks mainly to the spirited sax-trombone combination of Turrentine and Andy Martin. The remaining straight-ahead tunes lean toward a soul-jazz vibe and are significantly more melodic than most of today's mainstream jazz.
Of the contemporary tracks, the best is Robert Telson's "Calling You" (written for the 1988 film Bagdad Café
). It's a plaintive, atmospheric piece interpreted beautifully by Ms. Harris. Also notable is "Favorite Heart," a gentle samba instrumental. The syrupy title track is the only tune here that doesn't merit repeated listens.
With Do You Have Any Sugar
, Stanley Turrentine delivers a diverse and accessible collection that's especially recommended to fans of smooth jazz interested in hearing something a bit more substantial than the usual.