Shirley Scott: Hip Soul


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In the late '50s, through the '60s and into the '70s, albums by sax-organ combos seem to have been recorded every three minutes at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey. The Prestige label cornered the market on this format early, matching every possible Hammond B3 player with every conceivable tenor saxophonist. The number of reed-organ recordings for Prestige easily must total in the hundreds.

Among the most consistently interesting of these sessions were recordings by Shirley Scott [pictured above] and her then husband Stanley Turrentine [pictured left]. Turrentine's swinging freight-train sax backed by Scott's reed-section-sounding organ had a certain something that most other combos did not. If you analyze it, much had to do with the slow cook of both artists and how they goosed and played off each other. This was a partnership—not one instrument backed by the other.

The Turrentine-Scott sweet spot ran between 1961 and 1964, and the merger started with Hip Soul. Recorded in June 1961 about a year after the two married, the album is among their best summits. Of course, I say this loosely, since so many of their albums were perfect jazz-soul unions, including  Never Let Me Go (1963) and Hustlin' (1964). But Hip Soul has something more, delivering a special clarity and purpose.

For one, Scott's organ on the date is set with skating-rink stops that made her chords and notes swell and soar. Turrentine is bitingly quick and soulful, hitting the gas on his boss tenor sound and then rearing back smoothly into a soft hush. This is a church conversation between equals. Scott's solos are as extensive and as well framed as Turrentine's, and both bring a huge gospel feel.

Joining Scott and Turrentine are Herbie Lewis on bass and Roy Brooks on drums. Interestingly, Turrentine appeared under the name Stan Turner, a pseudonym he had to take on due to his existing Blue Note contract. There are five tracks: Hip Soul is a rich, groovy  blues by Turrentine; 411 West is a medium-tempo Benny Golson composition (with amazing solos by both artists); By Myself is the Deitz and Schwartz standard; Trane's Blues is John Coltrane's tune from a 1956 session with Paul Chambers; Stanley's Time is another Turrentine blues, and Out of This World is the Arlen and Mercer standard given a soulful flash fry by Scott and Turrentine.

In 1961, Scott and Turrentine managed to intertwine love and music. The result was a richness that superseded other organ-sax combos. Unfortunately, the Scott-Turrentine marriage would last only until 1970. But while they were together, they made some beautiful albums togethr. The first was particularly special.

JazzWax tracks: Hip Soul is not in print as a stand-alone album, but all of the material from the date are featured on Shirley Scott: Legends of Acid Jazz as the first six tracks. You'll find the album here.

JazzWax clip: There don't appear to be tracks from Hip Soul on YouTube. But here's Major's Minor from Never Let Me Go (1963). It will give you a fine sense of how these two played together...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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