Trombonist and composer Steve Turre gathers rising stars and jazz masters in tribute to influential elders on Generations. Turre, as you may know, has been blessed to have played with some of the greatest artists in the music including Art Blakey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Woody Shaw, and Ray Charles, to name just a few. Like Blakey, he has been passing his music on to the younger generations in the groups he’s led in recent years while on this album he enlists the support of both a younger crop and today’s veteran players. Turre composed nine of the ten compositions, electing just one standard, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Most of these tunes are rooted in the blues but manage span burning modal jazz, tender ballads, hard swingers, and even some reggae and Latin stylings. Challenged by both his peers and these energetic youthful players, this is broad swath of mostly straight-ahead jazz that Turre renders in configurations from quintet to septet.
The younger crop includes several second-generation players such as Turre’s son, drummer Orion Turre and trumpeter Wallace Roney, Jr. along with young pianist Isaiah J. Thompson and saxophonist Emilio Modeste and bassist Corcoran Holt who has been working with Turre with more than a decade, form the core sextet. Bassists Buster Williams and Derrick Barnett contribute on others. Drummers Lenny White, Karl Wright step in when Orion Turre steps out and percussionist Pedrito Martinez plays on two tracks, one with Orion and one with White. appears on eight tracks with saxophonist James Carter joining on one. Guitarists Ed Cherry and Andy Bassford each play on one track. Keyboardist Trevor Watkis plays the Rhodes on the reggae-infused “Don D.”
The track that most directly reveals Turre’s command of his instrument is the ballad “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” as he bends his notes beautifully while displaying gorgeous lyricism and blues to the quintet accompaniment of Thompson, Williams, his son, and Martinez. The reggae tune, “Don D” is a nice change of pace, featuring stellar guitar from Bassford and the aforementioned keys of Watkis. Here, as on several tracks, trombonist Turre heads a front line of horns that features tenorist Modeste and trumpeter Roney Jr. Kudos also to the tandem that keeps the reggae beat – Bassist Barnett and drummer Wright. The deepest blues is “Blue Smoke,” a nod to the label and club where Turre often plays. Guitarist Ed Cherry, an alumnus of the Dizzy Gillespie Band, joins the veteran rhythm tandem of Williams and White, with searing solos from Turre, Modeste, Roney Jr., Thompson, and spot-on blues articulation from Cherry and Buster Williams.
The album begins with “Planting the Ceed” inspired by Cedar Walton who was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers during Turre’s tenure with the iconic group. This is a burner, infused especially by tenorist Modeste’s aggressive solo although there’s a flair to solos from Turre, Roney Jr. and Thompson as well, all of whom bring it to a rousing climax. Yet, as explained in the liners, the first real seed was planted by Duke Ellington, whose concert Turre witnessed as a fourth grader, which is when he decided to play the trombone. The tune, “Dinner with Duke,” clearly echoes those Ellingtonian strains, perhaps best exemplified in the dialogue between Turre, playing with a plunger mute, and trumpeter Roney Jr. Holt’s arco bass solo is a nice touch as well.
If you’ve ever seen videos of Turre playing, he is noted for playing conch shells in addition to his main instrument the trombone. Here on “Flower Power” he plays both (the shells around the four-minute mark) in this half composed, half improvised piece where he, Roney Jr., Modeste, and Thompson create colorful unison harmonics before later roaming free. “Pharoah’s Dance,” nods to both Pharoah Sanders and McCoy Tyner, both of whom Turre has been blessed to play with. The searching modal tune prominently features all three horns with Roney Jr. especially shining in his spiraling turn, buoyed by percussionist Martinez, who also invigorates the Latin flavored “Good People.”
“Sweet Dreams” is the most tender ballad in the set, imbued by Turre’s lyrical lines, contributions from the ever-emotive James Carter on tenor, Roney Jr. on flugelhorn and an outstanding pizzicato bass turn from living legend Buster Williams over Orion’s caressing brush work. The closer, “Resistance” is the hardest swinger, written around the time of the 2016 election and maybe even more relevant now as the core sextet with Modeste on soprano this time let loose their collective positive and fiery energy, crying for change. The especially inspired Thompson’s percussive comping and soloing stand out relative to his performance on the other tracks.
Jazz, more than any other music, honors tradition and its elders. Turre is ensuring that the baton gets passed and does it with aplomb in this varied, exciting set.
- Jim Hynes