Published in Jazz Improv, V. 3, No. 4 (6/2002)

Steve Turre, TNT, Telarc Jazz, CD-83529
Released July 24, 2001. Recorded Nov. 9-10, 2000.
“Back in the Day”; “Puente of the Soul”; “Stompin' at the Savoy”; “The Nearness of You”; “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”; “Eric the Great”; “E.J.”; “Dewey's Dance”.
Personnel: Steve Turre, trombone; James Carter, tenor sax; Dewey Redman, tenor sax; David Sanchez, tenor sax; Mulgrew Miller, piano; Stephen Scott, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Peter Washington, bass; Victor Lewis, drums; Giovanni Hidalgo, congas, timbales, and campana.

Review by Virginia A. Schaefer

The inside cover of Steve Turre's latest release reveals that TNT stands for Trombone 'n' Tenor. On each piece, Turre on trombone is joined by one of three renowned tenor players: James Carter, David Sanchez, and the venerable Dewey Redman. As usual for Turre recordings, membership in the rhythm section also varies somewhat among pieces. Turre has worked previously with most of the players, and as usual he makes room for everyone's contributions. As a soloist, he keeps a characteristically modest profile. The liner notes point out that this is the first disc under Turre's name on which he plays only trombone and not the famous conch shells.

As with his preceding disc Spur of the Moment (also on Telarc), TNT covers several jazz genres, including straightahead, Latin, and what could be called progressive mainstream. For most of the selections, Turre gives explicit recognition to an admired jazz artist, living or deceased. Turre pays tribute through his own compositions as well as performance of honorees' works. This tendency is also typical; quoted in Ted Panken's liner notes, Turre states "I've always sought out the elders".

TNT is also an explosive, which promises some musical heat and light. There's definitely some good cooking here. A downtempo treatment of “Stompin' at the Savoy” simmers nicely. Turre's astute soloing seems particularly inspired by Redman's expressive slides and rhythmic stretches, which somewhat evokes Lester Young. Normally associated with the avant-garde, Redman approaches this swing-era chestnut with a fresh assessment of what's needed, rather than giving what's expected.

“The Nearness of You” is a straightforward balladic rendition, with Turre opening at the bottom of his instrument's range. Throughout the head and solo chorus, he builds tension while wending his way up to soprano register. Carter increases the excitement with his solo, seeming to chew the notes to extract their essence. Williams's bass solo is adept and inventive. However, in his piano solo Miller mostly marks time by riffing around the changes, with a few bits of melodic and rhythmic interest between phrases.

The other straightahead piece that cooks is “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”, in which Turre gives the nod to Ray Charles (who played on Turre's last disc). In the intro, Miller heats things up quickly with his gospel-blues expertise. Turre and Carter rollick gleefully through the head and solos, and the rhythm section is always right on the heavy backbeat and signature hits. Right through the shouting outchorus and final vamps, the performance carries the spirit as well as the traditional moves of the Charles classic.

“Eric the Great” is a Turre composition in AABA form with drum solo intro, extended interludes, and soloing over another set of changes. Its harmonic and melodic vocabularies place it in a style I'd call late hard-bop. This piece has a good composition, skillful arrangement, tight ensemble, and excellent soloing by all, as well as a style and feel generally evocative of its namesake Eric Dolphy.

The final piece is dedicated to a jazz great who's still much alive – and in fact plays on it. “Dewey's Dance” is the longest track on the disc and perhaps the deepest. Turre's triple-time composition is short and modal, with solos over a couple of chords. Turre's sound here is remarkable, mellow and softened throughout all registers, reminiscent of French horn. Redman plays in a deliberate and restrained way that shows no need to claim the spotlight. Although this performance is largely an interplay of equal parts, the arrangement often places the piano in the forefront. Stephen Scott demonstrates his abilities with a free-form introduction, singing and rhythmically interesting solos, and complex interplay with Lewis's delicate cymbal work.

“E.J.” is an uptempo, bop-style performance of a Turre composition that has a 12-bar blues-like form. The versatile Victor Lewis ably captures the drumming approach of the work's honoree, Elvin Jones. The performance seems more like an interlude than a standalone work. When a short form is played at a fast tempo, it's hard to grab on to much as choruses zip by.

The opening track, Stanley Turrentine's “Back in the Day”, is a bit disappointing. Listening to a bit of the composer's rendition (on Turrentine's Do You Have Any Sugar?, 1999) reinforced my impression that this piece needs more groove, perhaps starting with a heavier backbeat and more open and dissonant piano voicings. Or another, totally different interpretation – as long as it's more passionate and less polite.

The single Latin-jazz number, “Puente of the Soul”, falls somewhat short of Turre's past demonstrations of imaginative arranging and exciting performance in this genre. And I think the Tito Puente legacy of strong style and presence calls for more fire than this rendition radiates. Timbales are not much in evidence, but the gifted Giovanni Hidalgo takes a nice solo on congas.

In his recent recordings, Turre seems to be raising the conception and execution goals for himself and his players, who sometimes strain to cover such a wide range of genres and moods on a single disc. However, a bit of reaching is not so bad (and much preferable to coasting). For the most part, TNT measures up to the high standards that Steve Turre has led us to expect.