Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-Comin’ Your Way.

When bandleader and saxophonist Stanley Turrentine entered Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey on January the ’20th’ 1961, he was twenty-six and about to record what would eventually become Comin’ Your Way.  It was the third time he had made this journey since he had signed to Blue Note Records.

The first time was just a month earlier, in December 1960, when he completed the recording Blue Hour, a collaboration between Stanley Turrentine and The Three Sounds. It had been recorded during two sessions in 1960, and was scheduled for release during March 1961. This album he was about to record would be released later in 1961. Or so  Stanley Turrentine thought.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case and the release of Comin’ Your Way was postponed at the last minute. In its place, Up At “Minton’s”, a live album that was recorded at the famous Harlem venue, just one month after the Comin’ Your Way session. This came as a surprise to Stanley Turrentine and must have been disappointing and frustrating. However, he had still released his debut solo album on the legendary Blue Note Records. Surely it was only a matter of time before Comin’ Your Way was released?

Little did Stanley Turrentine realise that seventeen years would pass before the tracks on Comin’ Your Way were  eventually released in 1978 by Blue Note Records as part of the Jubilee Shouts’ compilation. By then, he was signed to Fantasy Records and changed direction musically. However, Comin’ Your Way was a reminder of Stanley Turrentine as he blossomed as a bandleader and tenor saxophonist. 

Now forty-two years later, Blue Note Records have reissued Comin’ Your Way as part of their Blue Note Tone Poet Series and is a 180 gram audiophile LP. It’s a welcome reminder of the late, great Stanley Turrentine who nowadays, is recognised as one of the great tenor saxophonists.

Stanley William Turrentine was born on April the 5th 1934, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in a musical family in the Hill District. His father Thomas Turrentine, Sr, was a saxophonist with Al Cooper’s Savoy Sultans, while his mother played piano and Stanley’s elder brother Thomas became a professional trumpeter and in January 1961, played on Comin’ Your Way. That was in the future.

When Stanley Turrentine started out, he wasn’t playing jazz. Instead, he was a member of various blues and R&B  bands. However, his main influence was  jazz tenor saxophonist, Illinois Jacquet who is remembered for his solo on Flying Home, which nowadays, is regarded as the first ever R&B saxophone solo. He wrote his name into musical history and later, so would Stanley Turrentine.

During the fifties, Stanley Turrentine was a member of Lowell Fulson and Earl Bostic‘s bands.  However, when he joined  Earl Bostic‘s band he was literally standing in the shadow of a giant as he replaced John Coltrane in 1953. Stanley Turrentine was also a member of pianist Tadd Dameron’s band during this period. Then in the mid-fifties  Stanley Turrentine was drafted.

During his time serving his country, Stanley Turrentine received the only formal musical training he ever had. When he left the US Army in 1959 he was a much more complete musician.

Upon leaving the military, Stanley Turrentine joined Max Roach’s band. He featured on four albums by the jazz drummer including 1959s Moon Faced and Starry Eyed, 1960s Quiet As It’s Kept and Parisian Sketches plus 1964s Long as You’re Living. However, when Stanley Turrentine wasn’t working with Max Roach he was in constant demand as a sideman.

Another album he played in during 1959 was Abbey Lincoln’s Abbey Is Blue. This was just the start of prolific period for Stanley Turrentine, who by then, had met his future wife.

As the new decade decade dawned, Stanley Turrentine married organist Shirley Scott in 1960, and the pair often played and recorded together. He accompanied his new wife on nine albums between 1961 and 1978. However, there was no sign of Shirley Scott when Stanley Turrentine recorded his debut album.

In 1960, he signed to Blue Note Records and on June the 16th recorded the six tracks with drummer Al Harewood, bassist George Tucker and pianist Horace Parlan that became Look Out! It was a recording of traditional bop which was quite different from his later bluesy, soul-jazz outings. However, his debut  was well received by critics who were impressed by the power, clarity and sweet and articulate album where Stanley Turrentine played within himself. Look Out! was a sign of what was to come from Stanley Turrentine.

Apart from recording his debut album Look Out! in 1960,  Stanley Turrentine recorded Blue Hour, a collaboration with and The Three Sounds. It was recorded on June the ‘29th’ and December ‘16th’ 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey.

That was also where hard bop and post bop pianist Horace Parlan recorded his album Speakin’ My Piece on July the ‘14th’ 1960. It was just one of a number of albums Stanley Turrentine played on during 1960. These albums were released during 1961.

As 1961 dawned, Stanley Turrentine journeyed to Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey on January the ’20th’ 1961 to record his sophomore album Comin’ Your Way.

 It featured six tracks including Dorothy Fields and Albert Hague’s My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me; Yip Harburg  and Arthur Schwartz’s Then I’ll Be Tired of You; Leon Mitchell’s Fine L’il Lass; George and Ira Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me and Wild Bill Davis’ Stolen Sweets. While Stanley Turrentine didn’t write any of the tracks on Comin’ Your Way, his brother Tommy contributed Thomasville and joined the band. 

Just like in his debut album, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine was joined by  drummer Al Harewood, bassist George Tucker and pianist Horace Parlan.The addition of his brother Tommy Turrentine on trumpet meant Comin’ Your Way was a quintet recording.

The session was engineered and ran by Rudy Van Gelder with Alfred Lion producing Comin’ Your Way. It found Stanley Turrentine moving away from the traditional bop of his debut album towards a bluesy soul-jazz sound.  

Comin’ Your Way opens with a pliant and swinging version of My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me. While the rhythm section of drummer Al Harewood and bassist George Tucker create a jolting  groove, Stanley Turrentine takes centrestage when he plays the main melody with an expressiveness and a  smoothness that many of contemporaries would be envious of. However, he’s not finished and raises the bar with a solo that twists and turns. Then like any good bandleader, Stanley Turrentine lets other band members showcase their skills. This includes hs brother Tommy on trumpet and pianist Horace Parlan on this breathtaking opener.

Many people will know and love Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Then I’ll Be Tired of You. After one listen to the quintet’s cover that will be the case here. Tommy Turrentine takes centrestage before the baton passes to his brother and bandleader Stanley. Just like on his debut album he plays within himself, playing tender and emotively. When Tommy returns he ads to the sense of melancholy before later, the two horns combine on this beautiful, wistful, late night  ballad. 

There’s almost a subdued sound to Fine L’il Lass before Stanley Turrentine’s plays his a soulful saxophone solo.  Later, George Tucker plays his only bass solo on the album. By then, this soulful track is starting to reveal its secrets, and is swinging.

Thomasville was penned by the older of the Turrentine brothers and is a blistering, driving slice of hard bop. Drummer Al Harewood drives and powers the arrangement along and also adds some swing. When it’s time for the solos it’s Stanley Turrentine whose up first and then his brother Tommy. It’s then time for Horace Parlan to steals the show with an uber funky piano solo, before Al Harewood  enjoys a brief moment in the sun. Just like on the album opener,  Stanley Turrentine allows his band the opportunity to shine on this hard bop opus.

Very different is the Gershwin’s standard Someone To Watch Over Me. It’s another beautiful, emotive ballad where Stanley Turrentine mournful, melancholy tenor saxophone plays a starring role. It’s soul-baring sound is accompanied by the rhythm section who take great care to play within themselves. In doing so, they play their part in a breathtakingly beautiful version of a much-loved jazz standard.

Closing Comin’ Your Way is Stolen Sweets which was written by R&B organist Wild Bill Davis. Following what’s akin to a fanfare, the Turrentine brothers lock horns as they play a series of ascending melodies. Then Tommy Turrentine drops out and leaves his younger brother to showcase his considerable talents as he plays an emotive and impassioned  bop-tinged solo. Although Comin’ Your Way was only his sophomore album, Stanley Turrentine was determined to close the album on a high and does so.

After Stanley Turrentine and his band recorded  Comin’ Your Way in January 1961, the twenty-six year old bandleader must have been looking forward to what was a breathtaking album of soul-jazz with diversions via hard bop and balladry. Here was an album that showcased the considerable talents of Stanley Turrentine and his band. They had accompanied him on his debut album with the exception of his brother Tommy, and he proved to be the missing piece of the jigsaw.  

Tommy Turrentine could prove the perfect accompaniment for his brother, and other times was the perfect foil. Sometimes, he spurred his younger brother on to even greater heights and helped bring out the best in Stanley Turrentine. While he had been playing professionally for a while, he was relatively inexperienced as a bandleader and solo artist. Maybe having his elder brother beside him in the studio brought out the best in him. Stanley Turrentine playing is almost flawless on Comin’ Your Way and why executives at Blue Note Records decided to shelf the album at the last moment seems strange?

In its place, Up At “Minton’s”, a live album that was recorded at the famous Harlem venue, just one month after the Comin’ Your Way session was released by Blue Note Records later in 1961. The album was a success, and Up At “Minton’s” Volume 2 followed later in 1961. This allowed  executives at Blue Note Records to argue that their decision to shelf Comin’ Your Way was vindicated. That is debatable as it may have been a much more successful album than Up At “Minton’s” and could’ve transformed Stanley Turrentine’s nascent solo career.

He spent the rest of the sixties signed to Blue Note Records and released albums of the quality of Hustlin’,  Easy Walker, The Spoiler and The Look Of Love. Then as the seventies dawned, Stanley Turrentine left Blue Note Records.

In 1970 Stanley Turrentine signed to Creed Taylor’s CTI Records and changed direction musically. He recorded a series of albums of fusion including one of his finest outings Sugar which was released in 1970.

The  following year 1971, Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott divorced after eleven years of marriage. Sadly, this talented couple never recorded another album together.

Following his divorce, Stanley Turrentine continued to record for CTI Records and released several critically acclaimed album. This included  Salt Song, Cherry with Milt Jackson and Don’t Mess With Mister T.  Then in 1974, Stanley Turrentine left CTI Records and signed for Fantasy Records. It was the end of an era.

Just like his time at Blue Note Record and CTI Records, Stanley Turrentine was prolific during his time at Fantasy Records. He released nine albums between 1974 and 1980 which encompassed a variety of styles.  These albums were orchestrated by the likes of Gene Page and featured an all-star group. Despite that, the albums received mixed reviews, with some of the negative reviews often unwarranted. The Fantasy Records’ years weren’t as successful as Stanley Turrentine’s time at Blue Note Record and CTI Records.

In 1978, Comin’ Your Way was discovered in the Blue Note Records’ vaults and belatedly released as part of the Jubilee Shouts’ two LP compilation in America. 

Another nine years passed before Comin’ Your Way  was released on LP and CD by Blue Note Records in 1987. It was a case of better late than never. At last, record buyers were able to hear Stanley Turrentine’s stunning, mythical lost album of soul-jazz, hard bop and beautiful ballads which had the potential to transform his nascent solo career if it had been released in 1961.

Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-Comin’ Your Way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: