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Steve Turre: Spiritman

C. Andrew Hovan By

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There seems to be two schools among the current generation of jazz trombonists. On the one hand you have those who favor the lush and melodic voices of Frank Rosolino, Lawrence Brown, Carl Fontana, and those of a similar ilk. By contrast are the bop inflected approaches of J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller. Turre has gone on record that he doesn't much care for those in his peer group that eschew tone for speed and dexterity. As for Turre himself, it could be argued that he has found a middle ground between the two schools.

As strong a voice as Turre has become in his disparate and varied work as a sideman, his own albums over the years have always seemed to be somewhat of a mixed bag. It is as if he has so many creative impulses at any one time that he has trouble funneling them into a cohesive whole. His first album for Smoke Sessions is no exception. However, it might be his best album in recent times. If there is one caveat, it has to do with the inclusion of some time-worn standards. Do we really need yet another version of "Love Man" or "With a Song in My Heart"? Add to that the fact that Turre's own originals are the meat and potatoes here and one has to wonder how much better the album would have been had numbers from Turre's pen been the sole focus.

The strongest two tracks are no nonsense swingers that find the whole crew in a swinging state of mind. "Bu" is Turre's tribute to drumming icon Art Blakey and it gets its nimble buoyancy via the drumming of modern day great Willie Jones III. "Trayvon's Blues" proves that the traditional 12 bar form still holds the power of inspiration, Turre's conch shells at the end providing that added cherry on the top.

"Funky Thing" is a self-explanatory number that introduces us to the wonderful blend Turre get with alto saxophonist Bruce Williams. At the other end of the rhythmic spectrum, "Nangadef" gets its African tinge through the congas of Chembo Corniel. It all then comes full circle with the closing "Spiritman-All Blues." Turre opens with the clarion call of his conch shells before the familiar ¾ swing of Miles' "All Blues" kicks in at a brisk tempo. As he does throughout, pianist Xavier Davis lends strong support while offering his own crystalline improvisations.

Track Listing: Bu; Lover Man; Funky Thing; Trayvon's Blues; It's Too Late Now; With a Song in My Heart; 'S Wonderful; Peace; Nangadef; Spiritman-All Blues.

Personnel: Steve Turre: trombone & shells; Bruce Williams: alto and soprano sax; Xavier Davis: piano; Gerald Cannon: bass; Willie Jones: drums; Chembo Corniel: congas.

Title: Spiritman | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Smoke Sessions

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