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Jazz Remembered

Stanley Turrentine

Stanley Turrentine 2.jpg

David Keen in Canada wrote to us: "I think Stanley Turrentine gets real short shrift historically. He was a hugely influential player from that period and could play any bag." So here is a look back at the saxophonist and his music:

Here is a video of Stanley Turrentine (sometimes know as 'Mr Sugar Man' or 'Mr T') playing Midnight Special at the Mount Fuji Jazz Festival in 1987 with Kenny Burrel (guitar), Jimmy Smith (organ) and Art Blakey (drums) - in another version of this video a YouTube commentator says: "These are the Gentleman I grew up listening to in the Shoe Shine Shop I used to shine shoes at in my teenaged years. We also sold records and the owner would play Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, Art Blakey and so on . I got a rich education in this music. This is one of the reasons I'm a musician today. A lot of these cats today they all sound alike. I can tell who is blowing or playing their axe. You know what I mean man. Thank you for this just lovely. Thank You!"

Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine was born in Pittsburgh. His father was a saxophonist with Al Cooper's Savoy Sultans, his mother played stride piano, and his older brother Tommy Turrentine was a professional trumpet player who served stints in the big bands of Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Benny Carter. After hearing saxophonist Illinois Jacquet, Stanley started out playing with blues, and rhythm and blues bands,

In the 1950s, he went on to play with the groups of Lowell Fulson (with Ray Charles) and Earl Bostic but it wasn't until the mid 1950s that he received any formal musical training when he served with the military for a short time. In 1959, he left the military and went straight into Max Roach's band.

In 1960, Stanley married organist Shirley Scott and the two frequently played and recorded together, and as the decade went on, he started working with organist Jimmy Smith. He made many soul jazz recordings both with Smith and as a leader in his own right.

Listen here to Love Letters from the 1964 album Hustlin' with Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone); Shirley Scott (organ); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Otis Finch (drums).

Stanley began recording as a leader for Blue Note, concentrating on small-group soul-jazz on classics like That's Where It's At, but also working with the Three Sounds (on 1961's Blue Hour) and experimenting with larger ensemble settings.

Here he is playing Willow Weep For Me with the Three Sounds from the Blue Hour album with Gene Harris (piano), Andrew Simpkins (bass), Bill Dowdy (drums).

Stanley Turrentine was possibly best known for his Blue Note soul-jazz jams of the 1960s but by the 1970s he had divorced and had started to become involved in playing jazz fusion. He signed for Creed Taylor's CTI label and his album, Sugar, was a great success.

Here's Sugar with Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone); George Benson (guitar); Lonnie Smith (electric piano); Ron Carter (bass) and Billy Kaye (drums).

Stanley Turrentine went on to work with, amongst others, Milt Jackson, George Benson, Idris Muhammad and Eric Gale.

The album Mr Natural included the Beatles' Can't Buy Me Love with Lee Morgan (trumpet); McCoy Tyner (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), Ray Baretto (percussion).

He returned to soul jazz in the 1980s and into the 1990s until he died of a stroke in New York City in 2000.


Here is Stanley Turrentine's cover of Isaac Hayes's Shaft from the 1980s. says: "Stanley Turrentine, it has been said, could make the telephone book sound soulful. His elegant brawn in the lower register of the tenor saxophone, and seductive swagger in the upper, sang perfectly in whatever bag he swung - from the blues and bebop to rhythm 'n' blues and pop. Throughout his long and varied career, his musical identity remained distinctively intact."

Here is a video of Stanley Turrentine playing John Coltrane's  Impressions in the 1990s.


There is more of Stanley Turrentine's music to be heard on YouTube, and here is an obituary in The Guardian by John Fordham from 2000 giving more details about him.

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