Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Review: Stanley Turrentine - Don't Mess With Mister T.

Stanley Turrentines successful and re-invigorating run of soul-jazz on the CTI label continued with 1973’s ‘Don’t Mess With Mr T’. As always produced by Creed Taylor, Turrentine was again re-united with many of the labels favourites and stalwarts such as Ron Carter, Joe Farrell and Eric Gale.

Backed by a greater string presence than before, it’s an obviously more commercial record and perhaps a more accessible one too. More soul than jazz than his earlier CTI dates, it’s reflected in the choice of material as well as their arranging and playing on certain pieces. The title track that kicks off is a strong soul number which balances the embellishments of the strings well with the front line players, so that everything is audibly clear and nothing is obscured by the mix.

‘Two For T’ that follows, is much more in the jazz vein but, written by Turrentine, no less strong. The album then maintains a balanced yet heady blend of soul-jazz, in the true meaning of the phrase, with some taking just a slight more jazz slant, others an edge towards a more soul approach. Regardless, there’s not a bad track here, although ‘I Could Never (Repay Your Love)’ heads a bit too close to being an early precursor to overwrought smooth-jazz, before some sterling guitar and organ work lifts things up.

Not quite as good a record as ‘Sugar’, which contained some nicely smouldering grooves and funky solos from everyone involved, ‘Don’t Mess With Mr T’ is a fine record and definitely for anyone with an interest in Turrentine. The string work and arrangements, though sometimes pointing to the future seventies excesses that would later lead the tenor man down a dead-end avenue of schmaltz and over-reliance on sweetened disco string sections, are for the most part strong yet unintrusive. This unfortunately would be ‘The Sugar Mans’ final recording with CTI, before signing with Fantasy and ultimately releasing album after album of smooch music, and as such this is perhaps the last great Stanley Turrentine. Enjoy it.


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