CULT CLASSIC: STANLEY TURRENTINE-THAT’S WHERE IT’S AT.
Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-That’s Where It’s At.
In September 1962, twenty-eight year old saxophonist Stanley Turrentine released That’s Where It’s At which was his fifth album for Blue Note Records. It was his much-anticipated followup to Dearly Beloved which at the time, many critics hailed as his finest album. That’s Where It’s At had a lot to live up to.
It was also a new chapter in the career of Stanley Turrentine as it was the first time that he had collaborated with pianist Les McCann. He composed four of the tracks on That’s Where It’s At, and was part of the quartet who recorded the album at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey on January the ’2nd’ 1962. This was the seventh solo album that Stanley Turrentine had recorded for Blue Note Records since June 1960. He had come a long way since signing for the label.
Stanley William Turrentine was born on April the ‘5th’ 1934, in 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. He was part of his brother’s band when he recorded Comin’ Your Way in 1961 and 1962s Jubilee Shout!!! 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. The result was a breathtaking album of soul-jazz with diversions via hard bop and balladry that had the potential to transform Stanley Turrentine’s nascent solo career and raise his profile. Despite this, executives at Blue Note Records decided to shelf the project which was belatedly released in 1987.
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.
On June the ‘8th’ 1961, Stanley Turrentine returned to Van Gelder Studio to record his next solo album, Dearly Beloved. Joining him on this trio recording were his wife organist Shirley Scott and drummer Roy Brooks. It was released to critical acclaim in February 1962 and was called the finest album of his career. Nowadays, Dearly Beloved is regarded as one of the finest albums Stanley Turrentine recorded for Blue Note Records.
Just over three months later, Stanley Turrentine was making the return journey on the ‘13th’ of September 1961 to Van Gelder Studio where he would record his next solo album, ZT’s Blues. Joining his was an all-star band that featured drummer Art Taylor, bassist Paul Chambers, guitarist Grant Green and pianist Tommy Flanagan. The band recorded seven compositions with groove meisters Stanley Turrentine and Grant Green playing a starring role.
Despite the quality of music on ZT’s Blues, history repeated itself when the album was shelved. This must have been hugely disappointing as here was another album that had the potential to transform Stanley Turrentine’s career. Ironically, when the album was belatedly released in 1985 it was to widespread critical acclaim. For Stanley Turrentine ZT’s Blues was the one that got away.
That’s Where It’s At.
For his next album That’s Where It’s At, Stanley Turrentine decided to collaborate with composer and pianist Les McCann. Although the two men had never collaborated before Stanley Turrentine was no stranger to collaborating on albums. He had collaborated on The Three Sounds album Blue Hour in 1960 and with Shirley Scott on his previous album Dearly Beloved which was released to plaudits and praise in June 1961. That’s Where It’s At was the much-anticipated followup.
For That’s Where It’s At Stanley Turrentine wrote Soft Pedal Blues and his brother Tommy penned Light Blue. Les McCann composed Smile, Stacey, Pia, We’ll See Yaw’ll After While, Ya Heah and Dorene Don’t Cry, I. These six tracks became That’s Where It’s At which was recorded at Van Gelder Studio.
On January the ‘2nd’ 1962, Stanley Turrentine’s quartet travelled to Van Gelder Studio. None of the musicians who played on ZT’s Blues featured on That’s Where It’s At. Instead, the tenor saxophonist was accompanied by drummer Otis Finch who was in his wife Shirley Scott’s group. Joining him in the rhythm section was Herbie Lewis who was in Les McCann’s group. Completing the quartet’s lineup for the recording of That’s Where It’s At was pianist Les McCann. This was one and only album the band recorded.
When That’s Where It’s At was released in September 1962 the majority of critics were won over by Stanley Turrentine’s much-anticipated fifth solo album. That came as no surprise given the quartet was firing on all cylinders to create That’s Where It’s At’s bluesy, funky and soulful and sound as they fuse bop and soul-jazz. Playing leading roles were Stanley Turrentine and Les McCann who seemed to drive each other to greater heights throughout the album.
Stanley Turrentine’s hard blowing tenor saxophone is to the fore throughout That’s Where It’s At as Les McCann’s piano adds a bouncy swing while the rhythm section contribute slinky grooves. When all this is combined the result is a potent and heady musical brew.
That’s Where It’s At opens with the uptempo and joyous sounding Smile, Stacey where Les McCann matches Stanley Turrentine every step of the way. It’s one of the album’s highlights. Another is Soft Pedal Blues where the slow, moody and bluesy saxophone is to the fore and accompanied by the piano. It veers between slow and spacious to deliberate and dramatic and there’s even flamboyant flourishes and just like the saxophone produce a late night ruminative sounding track. Initially, Pia glides along with Stanley Turrentine playing within himself and leaving space before Les McCann adds some of his slinkiest piano playing. The pair feed off each other and seem to bring out the best in each other. Later, the saxophone is played with power and control and sometimes is understated while the rhythm section add swing to this irresistible and memorable mid-tempo track.
There’s no letup on We’ll See Yaw’ll After While, Ya Heah with the saxophone and piano playing leading roles. Stanley Turrentine’s bluesy finger popping saxophone swings as he combines power and emotion. Meanwhile, Les McCann’s fingers dance up and down the piano keyboard flamboyant flourishes stealing the show and proving the perfect foil for Stanley Turrentine. From the opening bars of the bluesy sounding Dorene Don’t Cry, a beautiful, poignant and cinematic sounding track unfolds and paints pictures of hurt, heartbreak and love gone wrong. Closing the album is Light Blue, another slower track where the quartet play within themselves. That includes Messrs. McCann and Turrentine who are to the fore on what’s one of the most soulful sounding tracks on That’s Where It’s At.
After the release of That’s Where It’s At, Stanley Turrentine 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. However, the following year 1971, Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott divorced after eleven years of marriage. They 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.
The time that Stanley Turrentine spent signed to Blue Note Records was his most productive and saw him release some of the best and most important albums of his career. This included That’s Where It’s At Stanley Turrentine where he collaborated with Les McCann who was a perfect foil for him throughout the album. Together, they play their part in an almost flawless and timeless album that’s bluesy, funky, soulful and swinging.
It was no surprise that when That’s Where It’s At was released in September 1962 it was well received by the majority of critics. One of the few dissenting voices was Downbeat magazine who gave the album a mixed review. That’s ironic as nowadays, That’s Where It’s At is regarded as one of the albums that gave birth to the soul-jazz genre. One of soul-jazz’s finest practitioners was the tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and proof if any was needed are albums of the quality of Hustlin’, Easy Walker, The Spoiler, The Look Of Love, Comin’ Your Way as well as the cult classic That’s Where It’s At.
Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-That’s Where It’s At.
- Posted in: Blues ♦ Jazz ♦ Soul ♦ Soul Jazz
- Tagged: Alfred Lion, Blue Note Records, Comin' Your Way, Dearly Beloved, Herbie Lewis, Les McCann, Look Out!, Otis Finch, Rudy Van Gelder, Shirley Scott, Stanley Turrentine, That's Where It's At, Van Gelder Studio