Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: Stanley Turrentine - Do You Have Any Sugar?

After a lengthy stint with ‘Blue Note’ in the 60’s, and starting with 1970’s ‘Sugar’, Stanley Turrentine made sure he was always firmly in control of his recorded output, and subsequently found himself blessed with strong and consistent sales, his sound always sitting somewhere in the wide area between big soul-jazz and swooningly romantic ballad playing. In truth though, his best recordings musically have always been in the earlier category, while his more lounge material has always done good financial business for Turrentine with the candelit dinner and wine crowd.

‘Do You Have Any Sugar?’ recorded late in Turrentine’s career, at the age of 65, is a sweet and soulful record that lies somewhere comfortably between straight-ahead jazz and it’s pop and soul counterparts, but benefitting from having little of the sickly strings that smothered some of his more overly ‘romantic’ works in heavy schmaltz. Fielding a set of different small groups here, he uses electric sounds without being overly reliant or attempting to sound too contemporary and he enrols a set of good side-men in some key guest players, with strong mention in particular going to Rick Braun and his rich, smooth trumpet on ‘Stuff You Gotta Watch’.

The better cuts here are, as expected, the straighter and more soul-inflected jazz pieces, although the smooth numbers aren’t themselves bad, more just a little too light and insubstantial. ‘Favourite Heart’ is a relaxed samba that suits the soulful Sugar Man nicely, but it is the medium paced and hugely melodic ‘Keep On Keepin On’ and ‘Back In The Day’ and their driven spirited feel that stand out the most.

Singer Niki Harris, daughter of Gene (who famously played with Turrentine on masterwork ‘The Blue Hour’) and the most distinctive element of the album, contributes her impressive vocals to a number of the cuts here, but alas with some decidedly mixed results. Generic smooth obvious radio fodder assault the senses with syrup to spare in the sugary ‘Pause To Wonder’ and the so-treacley-it’ll-rot-your-teeth title-track, but at the other end of the scale ‘Calling You’ offers a more meditative mood to proceedings that showcases both Harris and Turrentine masterfully. The clear highlight though is without a doubt Turrentine’s soulful rendition of ‘Far Too Little Love’, a beautiful ballad featuring the legendary Joe Sample on piano playing a delightful solo.

Full of strong moments, there’s a good deal to love here, but there’s also a great amount that veers into sickly smooth jazz territory. Niki Harris is a strong singer too, but most of the tunes that are given over for her to take centre stage with the big man himself tend to border too much on saccharine pop-jazz, and as such most of her numbers are fairly fluffy and indistinct. And therein lays the issue with ‘Do You Have Any Sugar?’ - for every golden Turrentine moment, we get sappy and syrupy airbrushed jazz-lite that wouldn’t sit out of place on a Kenny G album. Fans will relish the excellent solos Mr. T still belts out in his own uniquely bluesy way, and for the strength of playing at this late a stage in his career. But it’s far from great, and the overall feeling for anyone listening is bound to be one wishing that he’d record less crossover slush and just follow his instincts, recording an album purely of his own desire. Not a classic then, but sporadically brilliant.


No comments:

Post a Comment