Steve Turre has consistently endeavored to avoid the commonplace on his dozen releases as leader during the past two decades. On Keep Searchin' he continues his triumphant quest to present music on the highest possible artistic level. Eschewing the company of another horn on the date, Turre showcases his versatility and virtuosity on trombone and conch shells in the company of an inspired unit featuring vibraphonist Stefon Harris, pianist Xavier Davis, alternating bassists Peter Washington and Gerald Cannon, and drummer Dion Parson, with cellist Akua Dixon lending her unique sound to the mix, playing the rarely heard baritone violin on three tracks.
Turre reprises his earliest recorded composition, "Sanyas, first heard on Woody Shaw's The Moontrane (Muse, 1975), to open the date, prefacing the episodic piece with a conch shell introduction before presenting the exotic theme on trombone. On "Faded Beauty, a bluesy ballad by Harris, the trombonist is evocatively vocal, on both plunger-muted and open horn, the earthiness of his sound contrasting effectively with the airiness of Harris and Dixon. Grachan Moncur III's "Thandiwa is a rhythmic tune that inspires worthy statements from Turre, Harris and Davis. Turre's "Reconciliation is a beautifully emotive composition that makes effective use of unique combination of Harris' vibes and Dixon's baritone violin.
The quintet (with Cannon on bass) shows off its hard bop chops on Curtis Fuller's "Time Off, a scorcher that features Parson's drums. Turre's lyrical reading of "My Funny Valentine is as fine a version as ever recorded, full of feeling and devoid of any false sentimentality.
The remaining four tracks show off the leader's considerable skill as a composer of vehicles for improvisation. "Easy Now is a lighthearted tune, at times reminiscent of Monk's "Nutty, while "Steppin' Out is a fleet swinging excursion on the "Giant Steps changes. On "Da Blues, Turre shows that he is without equal on his instrument as an interpreter of the dialect. The closing title track is a finger-snapper with a few unexpected turns, including a concluding shell solo. As its title implies and the date proves, Turre strives to keep the art of jazz fresh and vital.
Sanyas; Faded Beauty; Thandiwa; Reconciliation; Time Off; My Funny Valentine; Easy Now; Steppin
Steve Turre: trombone, shells; Stefon Harris: vibes; Akua Dixon: baritone violin; Xavier Davis:
piano; Dion Parson: drums; Gerald Cannon or Peter Washington: bass.
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