While I am a trombonist, and I have read numerous times in the jazz press that Steve Turre is an excellent trombonist, for some reason this is the first album of his that I have bought. The first impression I got of this album was that it was different in a very good way. The program of mostly Turre originals opens with Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" which starts with Turre playing shells. I knew that Steve Turre also played conch shells, but I had no idea how that fit into a musical context other than as some sort of special effect. But he's capable of producing a full range of pitches, and therefore melodies and solos, on these shells. They add a warm, earthy voice to the proceedings, and it's not gimmicky at all.
So what else is on here that makes this album pleasantly unique? Well, there's the frequent use of a trombone quartet, a string quartet, some great trumpet solos by Jon Faddis and Randy Brecker, some beautiful trombone guest solos by the legendary J.J. Johnson, the rich, expressive contralto of Cassandra Wilson on "In a Sentimental Mood," and some of Cuba's finest percussionists. Oh, and there's not a saxophone or any woodwind on the entire album. Not that there's anything wrong with saxophones, but their absence is another thing that makes this album different.
And what about the music itself? Turre explains that the underlying theme of this album is "Three Branches of the Tree," in this case meaning American jazz, Cuban latin, and Brasilian samba/bossa. These elements are combined in various ways to make an interesting, varied program.