When the CTI label originally released tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine's Don't Mess With Mister T. in 1973, it managed to bring music to the public that served as a sign of the times, while also helping to define the times. The soul within Turrentine's horn had been at the center of his earlier successes for the labelSugar (CTI, 1970), Salt Song (CTI, 1971) and Cherry (CTI, 1972)but it really rose to the surface and reached its peak with this release.
The Richard Roundtree-worthy expression written across Turrentine's face on the cover is a visual representation of the urban attitude-meets-soul jazz sound that is properly captured on this memorable album. The saxophonist is capable of getting down-and-dirty when it counts ("Too Blue"), but his music also epitomizes instrumental urban-chic in the early-to-mid '70s ("Don't Mess With Mr. T."). Bob James' arrangements accentuate the R&B-soul side of Turrentine's playing, without becoming a distraction, and the groove-of-paramount-importance philosophy that this rhythm section seems to hold so dear helps to lock everything in place.
The original release of this album only contained four songs, and just barely cracked the thirty-minute mark, but Don't Mess With Mr. T. has since doubled its birth weight. The four tracks tacked onto the end of the album add about another thirty minutes of music and present an alternate view of what this record could have been. While "Pieces Of Dreams" would have fit in well with the originally-issued material, the alternate take of the title track is a bit too rough. An almost psychedelic sound introduces the song, and Billy Cobham's drumming changes the overall rhythmic landscape of this performance. While Idris Muhammad brought a clean, studio steadiness to the master take, Cobham is more of a loose cannon, keen on throwing in the occasional ill-fitting tom fill. Cobham's compositional contribution"Mississippi City Strut"could have added a dose of funk to the '73 edition, but the style of the piece didn't quite fit in with the vibe of the album and the recording quality isn't up to the usual CTI standards.
While some of the bonus material might be seen as a fly in the ointment, Don't Mess With Mr. T. still deserves "classic" status. This is indispensable Stanley Turrentine soul-jazz, rightfully reissued by the powers-that-be at CTI Masterworks.
Don't Mess With Mr. T.; Two For T.; Too Blue; I Could Never Repay Your Love; Pieces of Dreams; Don't Mess With Mr. T. (Alternate Take); Mississippi Strut; Harlem Dawn.
Stanley Turrentine: tenor saxophone; Bob James: piano (1, 3, 4), electric piano (1, 6); Harold Mabern: electric piano (2, 3); Richard Tee: organ (1, 3, 4); Johnny Hammond: organ (6, 7); Idris Muhammad: drums; Billy Cobham: drums (6-8); Rubens Bassini: percussion; Ron Carter: bass; Eric Gale: guitar; Randy Brecker: trumpet; John Frosk: trumpet; Alan Raph: bass trombone; Pepper Adams: baritone saxophone; Jerry Dodgion: alto saxophone; Joe Farrell: tenor saxophone; Harry Cykman: violin; Harry Glickman: violin; Emanuel Green: violin; Harold Kohon: violin; Guy Lumia: violin; David Nadien: violin; John Pintaualle: violin; Irving Spice: violin; Harold Coletta: violin; Emanuel Vardi: violin; Seymour Barab: cello; George Ricci: cello.
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