Stanley Turrentine with the Three Sounds – Blue Hour
Music Matters Jazz
In the hands of Stanley Turrentine, the tenor saxophone was an instrument of soulful creativity and immense power. From his 1960 Blue Note debut, Look Out (BLP 4039/BST 84039) through his biggest hit for CTI Records, Sugar (CTI 6005) in 1971, Turrentine’s credentials were second to none as a giant in the genres of Hard-Bop, Modal and Soul-Jazz. The subject of this discussion places the tenor man in the company of Gene Harris on piano; Andrew Simpkins on bass and Bill Dowdy on drums who were collectively known as The Three Sounds for a program of the Blues. Blue Hour (BLP 4057/BST 84057), originally released in 1961 is the second of only two records where The Three Sounds would back a saxophonist. The first LP was 1959’s LD + 3 (BLP 4012/BST 84012) with alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. My copy used in this report is the 2015 Music Matters 33 1/3 Stereo reissue (MMBST-84057). The 1930 song, I Want a Little Girl written by Murray Mencher and Billy Moll leads off the first side. This infrequently heard ballad opens with an angelic introduction by the trio, exhibiting Harris’ attentiveness to the lyric and melody. Stanley joins in for the theme with a quiet sincerity in his approach, then delivers a graceful performance which captures the essence of this standard on the initial solo. Harris’ interlude is brief, but lovely and the closing by the quartet is especially beautiful.
Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You was written in 1929 by Don Redman and Andy Razaf. The song became a jazz standard in 1943 after Nat King Cole recorded it with his trio. The Three Sounds provide a nostalgic mood with a pensive introduction, allowing Stanley to deliver the melancholy melody with feeling. Turrentine starts the solos tastefully, enhancing each verse with subtle lyricism which reaches a peak of sensitivity at its conclusion. Harris instills the closing presentation of this standard with new life on an interpretation of intimate warmth which is a work of beauty. The only original on the album ends the first side, Gene Harris’ Blue Riff takes the tempo to a medium beat during the opening chorus which moves with a finger-popping, toe-tapping groove. The Sounds’ introduction sets the mood for Stanley to create some jubilant phrases on the opening statement with a vivacious spontaneity which builds to a successful summation. Gene takes the next turn for a cheerful presentation of joyful swinging with a youthful spirit which is also delightful. Stanley returns for a few final verses of soulful riffs, prior to Gene leading the trio into a fadeout.
The 1945 jazz and pop standard, Since I Fell For You by Buddy Johnson opens the second side. Johnson wrote both the music and words of this very beautiful ballad, and first introduced that year it with his sister Ella on vocals. This evergreen is one of the most recorded songs in jazz and pop and has been performed by many of the greatest musicians and vocalists in both genres. The Three Sounds start the song with a stylishly soft, slow-paced introduction as natural as if the song was written for this album exclusively. The trio segues into a soothing opening melody by Turrentine who solos twice, delivering tasteful and tranquil restraint on the first interpretation and closing chorus. Harris contributes a luscious reading which is lovingly stated with tenderness. Simpkins and Dowdy’s accompaniment is richly satisfying behind Gene as he performs each voluptuous verse. One of my favorite standards, Willow Weep For Me, written by Ann Ronell in 1932 opens with the exquisitely mellow tone of Stanley’s tenor sax leading the quartet through the main theme for one of his definitive ballad performances on the LP. Gene’s opening statement is a gorgeous, mid-tempo reading which compliments his colleague’s exceptional groundwork into an alluring culmination. Stanley’s closing performance starts at a poignant pace with a firm introspective tone, followed by a graceful swing which takes the tune down smoothly into a luscious finale.
Pianist Gene Harris, who was known for his gospel jazz style formed The Three Sounds in 1956 with Andy Simpkins and Bill Dowdy. The group became a hit with the public and by the time Blue Hour was recorded, the trio was amid a four-year run (1958-1962) recording a total of twelve albums for Blue Note including four in 1960 alone, which is why I believe Alfred Lion didn’t release the additional eight songs available on the 2000 two CD – album after this record hit the stores. The Three Sounds’ would be together until 1970, when Harris would leave to embark on a successful solo career. Stanley Turrentine was a veteran tenor saxophonist of the Soul-Jazz style since the fifties and he would record a total of seventeen LP’s for the label as a leader, plus several as a sideman including guitarist Kenny Burrell on Midnight Blue (BLP 4123/BST 84123); pianist Horace Parlan (1931-2017) on Spur of The Moment (BLP 4074/BST 84074). Three with organist Shirley Scott (1934-2002) who he was married to at the time, Never Let Me Go (BLP 4129/BST 84129); A Chip Off The Old Block (BLP 4150/BST 84150) and Common Touch (BST 84135). One with pianist Horace Silver (1928-2014), Serenade To a Soul Sister (BLP 4277/BST 84277) and three with organist Jimmy Smith (1928-2005), Midnight Special (BLP 4078/BST 84078); Back at The Chicken Shack (BLP 4117/BST 84117) and Prayer Meetin’ (BLP 4164/BST 84164).
In his liner notes, noted author, jazz historian and journalist Ira Gitler offers one definition of the Blue Hour as that early morning time “when you reach across the pillow where your Baby used to lay” and find to find him (or her) there. The sound on this LP is stunning, the remastering of Rudy Van Gelder’s original tapes by Record Technology Incorporated is also superb and the gatefold photos of each musician during the session compliments the music marvelously. What I’ve found the album to be is nearly thirty-eight minutes of blissful jazz by Stanley Turrentine and The Three Sounds that adds weight to any jazzy library and is an LP you can enjoy at any time of the day, the evening or the early morning during the Blue Hour.
I Want a Little Girl, Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You, Since I Fell For You, Willow Weep For Me – Source: Wikipedia.com
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