Salt Song

Stanley Turrentine

Sony Records, 1971

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


So. Another jazz review. Another walk in the dark with someone who isn't a hundred percent sure where he's going. But trust me on this one: in the galaxy of jazz saxophone players, Stanley Turrentine is a major constellation.

After early forays that included one stint playing in a jazz group with Ray Charles, and another replacing the great John Coltrane in a combo, Turrentine struck out on his own with a series of soul-jazz albums for Blue Note. A prolific recording artist who put out two or three albums a year steadily through the 60s, the early 70s saw Turrentine begin experimenting with fusion, bringing in electric piano and putting greater focus on melody.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Turrentine's 1971 album Salt Song, re-released in 1997 with a bonus track added, is among his best and features an all-star cast of seasoned players. It's a brilliant combination of traditional hard-bop jazz jams with heavier, r&b/funk rhythms, fusion music in the truest sense of the word. It's funky yet sophisticated, smooth yet full of soul, and its backbone is Turrentine's rich, silvery tone, ever-graceful yet full of playful personality.

The disc opens with the whirling rhythm of "Gibraltar," its circular, bopping-good bass line courtesy of jazz superstar Ron Carter. This Freddie Hubbard composition is also spiced with an extended solo from Eric Gale on guitar, whose nimble, expressive work is all over this album.

Another highlight is the title track, a Brazilian romp with aggressive percussion runs from Airto Moreira flowing into a silky-smooth sax interlude before the two themes merge and accelerate, an arsenal of Amazonian percussion rattling away double-time down below while Turrentine decorates the upper registers with a layer of swing and grace. Bonus track "Vera Cruz," also composed by Milton Nascimento, has a similar samba flavor in the rhythm track, albeit with virtual scat-soloing from Turrentine as he attacks the melody line with energy and intensity.

In between, Turrentine slows things down with the gospel-tinged lament "I Told Jesus" (heavy on the organ) and "I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do" a sultry nightclub jazz ballad featuring brushes, cymbals, upright bass and gentle electric piano. Finishing off the track, strings add an extra dollop of romance as Turrentine eases through a strong, sweet melody.

The steady-building album-closer and sole Turrentine composition "Storm" spotlights superb drum work by Billy Cobham and another rippling, elegant Gale solo on the electric guitar, in addition to more fine sax work from the author. They just don't make music like this anymore - both graceful and exciting, improvisational and precise. It's sweet, sweet stuff, as well as a very enjoyable next step in my own personal jazz appreciation learning process. Highly recommended.

Rating: A-

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© 2003 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony Records, and is used for informational purposes only.