WBGO Radar

Steve Turre: Spiritman

trombonist Steve Turre

With hard work, and always a look back to pay it forward, trombonist Steve Turre has secured his place as one of today's premier jazz musicians.

What has always fueled his work, whether with Ray Charles, Art Blakey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk or Woody Shaw, among countless others, is Spirit.

As Turre explains, " Music is about giving and searching, that is the spirit. Without spirit, music is just notes."

The ten tracks on Turre's "Spiritman" release, include originals and inventive looks back.

The creative center is sparked by saxophonist Bruce Williams, pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Gerald Cannon, drummer Willie Jones III and percussionist Chembo Corniel.

Art Blakey scooped Turre up after an impromptu audition at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco in the 1970s. The drummer knew what he had just heard. He brought Steve to New York to become a messenger for the spirit.

Turre's "Bu" (a nickname for Blakey) opens this studio set with what his mentor Curtis Fuller would call "fire and filigree," with single lines from the leader.

Add to that the inspired work of Williams on sax and pianist Davis, alongside Cannon and Jones, and we feel the message loud and clear!

Turre says the feel of a smokin' organ trio is what gives "Lover Man" a kick in the pants, full of toe tappin' swing.

The Rodgers and Hart nugget, "With a Song in My Heart" explodes from the gate, with Williams' alto in a challenging chase with Turre's amazing lines, the trio showing the trombonist knew exactly how to have some furious fun with the musicians he chose.

"Funky Thing" is a piece Steve wrote for the Saturday Night Live Band, of which he's been a part for many years. As Turre says, "funk and the blues are like family." This musical family will make you check your dance moves here.

Turre explains the original "Trayvon's Blues" by saying, "when the murder happened, it hit home with many folks. That could have been my son." A mellow beginning moves to explosive sentiment, with Turre's conch shell ending a cry for help. A powerful piece.

Beauty meets the bone with a gorgeous display on Horace Silver's "Peace". It's a chance to hear this quartet quietly take you to a place perhaps you've never been before.

"Nangadef" is a Senegalese word for hello. This African flavored original features Chembo Corniel's percussion, Williams' soprano, and a showcase for the trombonist's lessons learned over many years in Latin bands..

"Spiritman" is a segue to the leader's reinvention of "All Blues", his conch shells blown into the piano strings, a haunting  lead in to an exploring exchange with the quartet.

About this session, Steve Turre says "the chemistry was sublime."  My ears agree. "Spiritman" comes out March 10.

Hear it live when Turre celebrates with his group at Smoke in New York March 13 - 15.

   - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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