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Author of Funny Valentine, an acclaimed new biography of the jazz trumpet player and singer, Chet Baker.
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Saturday, 19 March 2022 19:07

Brandon Allen - The Stanley Turrentine Project

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Brandon Allen doesn't mess with Mr. T.

Tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen describes his new album, The Stanley Turrentine Project, as a “labour of love”, and it certainly comes across in the music. His own tone is well-suited to capturing the spirit of Turrentine, warm and effortlessly soulful, and he has also selected a number of “deep cuts” from the late saxophonist’s golden period, which will have you searching for the originals if you’re anything like me.

Allen worked with a top-notch band on this project, comprised of Will Barry on piano and keyboards, Conor Chaplin on bass and Dave Ingamels on drums. The album focuses on what I would regard as Turrentine’s golden period, from 1960 to 1975, which primarily means the albums he recorded for Blue Note and CTI, rather than his later, more commercially-driven recordings.

One of the “deep cuts” opens the album. Can’t Buy Me Love sounds like one of Turrentine’s more commercial recordings, and is, but can only be found on Mr. Natural – a Blue Note album recorded in 1964, but only released in 1980. Like many “lost” Blue Note recordings, there was no particular reason why this album was shelved – it also featured Lee Morgan on trumpet and McCoy Tyner on piano – and it’s great to hear this soulful version here.

You’re Gonna Hear From Me comes from Turrentine’s 1968 Blue Note album, The Spoiler. Whilsgt the original featured a bigger, five-piece horn section, Allen delivers a more stripped-back version which works well, and features a fine solo by the band leader.

Love For Sale, a bona fide Turrentine classic from Up At Minton’s, is a highlight. It features a strong solo by Will Barry on piano, after the main theme from Allen, assisted by some nifty support from drummer Dave Ingamels.

Watch the official preview of the album here:

Little Green Apples and Fool On The Hill both feature on Turrentine’s 1968 album, Always Something There. It was one of Turrentine’s “lighter” efforts, recorded at a time when jazz was struggling to make itself heard. The original album features overdubbed strings, but shorn of the excessive decoration, Allen reveals the underlying beauty in Turrentine’s work. The former features Will Barry on electric piano, whilst the latter benefits from a fantastic re-arrangement by Brandon Allen, with Barry alternating between piano and electric piano.

The Island is an Ivan Lins tune that was recorded for one of Turrentine’s later albums, and demonstrates that he continued to record some good tunes, even later in his long career. The bossa nova gradually builds, and features one of Allen’s more fiery solos.

Evil, from Pieces Of Dreams (Fantasy, 1974) is perhaps the album’s only mis-step. The playing is immaculate, but Turrentine’s Fantasy recordings were a bit too smooth for my taste, and it would have been nice to hear more of his funkier CTI recordings, such as Salt Song or Sugar.

The album closes with a funky read of Mississippi City Strut, which came from Don’t Mess With Mr. T (CTI, 1973), and perhaps supports my view. When Turrentine combined his soulful playing and big tone with a cool, stripped back funk, it was hard to beat. And Brandon Allen and his tight band play it straight, and don’t mess with Mr. T!

I am a big fan of Turrentine’s prime recordings, and own many of them on vinyl, so I was excited to hear this album. Brandon Allen pays full credit to the originals, capturing the spirit, even whilst re-arranging some of the tunes. The album is great fun, from start to finish, and comes highly recommended. 

 

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