Stanley Turrentine | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Stanley Turrentine


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Now nearly 65, and having spent two-thirds of his life in the public ear, the tough-talkin' tenor man Stanley Turrentine just keeps steaming along. Grounded in the hard bop of the 1950s, Turrentine quickly learned to apply the harmonic sophistication of that idiom to the simple, catchy yearnings of Motown and its various pop aftershocks; you won't find a better example of this than his temperature-raising croon on the Buddy Johnson hit "Since I Fell for You." Turrentine recorded it in 1960, but his remains the signature jazz performance of that song. In the 70s, the lush strings he laid behind covers of pop, rock, and even dance tunes made him the embodiment of chart-topping jazz-lite. His crossover appeal and his fat tone--which today also qualifies as "phat"--led some people to consider Turrentine a later version of Gene Ammons, a comparison that doesn't do either man justice. Turrentine's sound is light syrup to Jug's sweet molasses. But it does work in one respect: in both careers, popular success obscured, yet never obliterated, a gleaming core of improvisational acumen. Turrentine's trademarks--the punctuating falsetto yelps and half-muttered phrases, the way he fades away on a melody line's key notes, and his relentless, bluesy elegance--hold equal places in pop and jazz. But these days he concentrates on the latter: T Time (Music Masters), three years old but still his most recent CD, contains some of his most tightly organized playing in a decade. His touring quartet includes Kei Akagi, a dynamite pianist. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Marc PoKempner.

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