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The two tenor battle is not a new idea, with predecessors ranging from Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray to Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Johnny Griffin. However, what we have here is not so much a competition but a complimentary pairing that makes the most of the individualistic styles of Mark Turner (a distinguished disciple of Lester Young and Warne Marsh) and Tad Shull (straight out of the Webster/Hawkins school of deep-throated tenors). It’s the contrast that makes for provocative listening, Shull positively robust and burly, with Turner proving to be lighter-toned and more reasoned.
Throughout this generous set, Turner and Shull get sensitive backing from the trio of Kevin Hayes, Larry Grenadier, and Billy Drummond. Even with the preponderance of ballad material, things never bog down or become effete. The variety of material also helps in this matter, with “What’s My Name” sporting a gentle rumba beat and the waltz tempo of Bill Evans’ “Very Early” given a light bounce.
Recorded in 1994 and just now seeing release, Two Tenor Ballads gives us a sumptuous early look at Turner, who has since become a leading man of great promise. Unfortunately, this “lost session” is the most recent work to feature Shull, a neglected maverick who is rarely heard from these days.
Track Listing: A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing, Autumn In New York, Blue In Green, What's My Name, I Forgot To Remember, Alone Together, Very Early, Turn Out the Stars, You've Changed (67:47)
Personnel: Mark Turner & Tad Shull- tenor saxophone, Kevin Hays- piano, Larry Grenadier- bass, Billy Drummond- drums