This may not be the first time that Steve Turre has used multiple trombones on a recording date nor will it be the last. But let it be known that this time around Mr. Turre has come closer than ever to sounding like the maestro of a great band. Lessons from Rahsaan Roland Kirk and from Dizzy Gillespie and most of all, from the great J.J. Johnson have been imbued and assimilated. Mr. Turre has paid his dues and the singular voice has long-since emerged. And now the time has come for him to strut his stuff. Here is a trombonist who continues to wear out lips on fine embouchure, and lungs with sometimes circular and always rhythmic exhalation to now arrive at a time and place he should be proud of, for from good to great is where Mr. Turre is now at. And he has an album that makes that definitive statement, which only proves a point which was an open secret for some time now. For Steve Turre is a sublime artist and this album says something about that, for the album is exactly what it is cracked up to be: The Bones of Art.
Mr. Turre has long proved himself to be one of the finest instrumentalists playing today. His fine sense of melody and harmony is only rivaled by his uncanny sense of where the pulse of music is, because of his inborn intellect for rhythm. That he seems to have come from the school of bebop that bred his mentor, J.J. Johnson is a fact, but there is also the astounding ability to play with odd metres and this seems to be Mr. Turre’s true calling. Consider “4 & 9”. Consider the trombonist’s ability to make even the more daring forays into the realm of rhythm eminently danceable even when he warns those affected by the innate urge to jump for joy at such a rollicking piece. What also emerges here as it does elsewhere on “Sunset” is that Steve Turre is made completely of music and therefore needs no reliance on style. He strives for pure tone and thus notes he plays may not necessarily subscribe to a deliberate and recognisable logic. Each is a product of the search for pronunciation in its purest form. This is probably why he is able to write and play ballads with such elegiac and elemental beauty. “Slide’s Ride” to Slide Hampton, “Fuller Beauty” and “Julian’s Blues” may be somewhat naive titles but are magnificent songs nevertheless and Mr. Turre’s work here is singularly stellar. But so is the harmony on each chart and there is very good reason for this.
There are three other men—fine trombonists all of them—who play with singular beauty, making Mr. Turre and all the repertoire sound special and admirable. Frank Lacy is moved by the blues. His tone is forthright and downright gutbucket. Mr. Lacy is exceptional and whether he is playing open bell or with one or the other of his myriad mutes is tonally sublime. Furthermore Mr. Lacy is drenched in the blues and the hardnosed Texas sound that makes his so unique, like Ornette Coleman. Steve Davis is remarkably melodious and he is responsible for much of the rich harmony that abounds on this recording. Mr. Davis, a fine soloist in his own right often plays foil to Steve Turre’s tonal excursions as he (Mr. Turre) reaches for the Holy Grail of tone with each note he plays. As he does so, Mr. Davis is right there in his face bouncing off notes played right into his ear it would seem. Nothing describes this relationship better than “Bird Bones” as well as “Julian’s Blues,” where Mr. Davis does the same with Frank Lacy. And then there is Robin Eubanks, a trombonist who can funk up even the funkiest groove; something that is eminently proved in “4 & 9”.
The band would be incomplete without pianist Xavier Davis, who plays in the pocket every time the spotlight is on him and he has to solo. Bassists Peter Washington has walked many a mile in Steve Turre’s caravanserai and thus his work is on point as it is eminently beautiful. But then so is Kenny Davis’ and Willie Jones III, another mighty percussion colourist and whose work is so subtle it is discernable only when the sonic canvas opens wide to showcase ensemble beauty. Pedrito Martinez was an inspired choice for a chart that is meant to convey all that is bright and beautiful about “Daylight,” which is also where Steve Turre emerges playing his myriad shells—something he uses to make music that is almost hallowed in nature. And that is exactly what this record The Bones of Art ends up becoming: a hallowed recording in its own right.
Track List: Slide’s Ride; Blue & Brown; Settegast Strut; Bird Bones; Sunset; 4 & 9; Fuller Beauty; Shorter Bu; Julian’s Blues; Daylight.
Personnel: Steve Turre: trombone, shells (10); Frank Lacy: trombone (1 – 5, 7 – 10); Steve Davis: trombone (1 – 7, 9, 10); Robin Eubanks: trombone (6, 8); Xavier Davis: piano, Fender Rhodes; Peter Washington: bass (1 – 5, 7 – 10); Kenny Davis: electric bass (6); Willie Jones III: drums; Pedro Martinez: congas, bongos, campana (10).
Steve Turre on the web: steveturre.com
Label: HighNote Records | Release date: August 2013
Reviewed by: Raul da Gama
About Steve Turre
One of the world’s preeminent jazz innovators, trombonist and seashellist Steve Turre, has consistently won both the Readers’ and Critics’ polls in JazzTimes, Downbeat, and Jazziz for Best Trombone and for Best Miscellaneous Instrumentalist (shells). Turre was born to Mexican-American parents and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area where he absorbed daily doses of mariachi, blues and jazz. While attending Sacramento State University, he joined the Escovedo Brothers salsa band, which began his career-long involvement with that genre. In 1972 Steve Turre’s career picked up momentum when Ray Charles hired him to go on tour. A year later Turre’s mentor Woody Shaw brought him into Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. After his tenure with Blakey, Turre went on to work with a diverse list of musicians from the jazz, Latin, and pop worlds, including Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, J.J. Johnson, Herbie Hancock, Lester Bowie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Van Morrison, Pharoah Sanders, Horace Silver, Max Roach, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The latter introduced hum to the seashell as an instrument. Soon after that, while touring in Mexico City with Woody Shaw, Turre’s relatives informed him that his ancestors similarly played the shells. Since then, Turre has incorporated seashells into his diverse musical style… Read Complete Bio