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Stanley Turrentine: “Sugar” and “Don’t Mess with Mr. T.”

Tenor sax player Stanley Turrentine, a native of Pittsburgh, lived from 1934 to 2000.

Wikipedia’s profile notes that his career began in what it terms “soul jazz” – an evocative label that I haven’t heard before – with Blue Note.

His only formal training came in a strange place: The army. It did the job well. Upon discharge Turrentine joined Max Roach’s band.

Stanley Turrentine

For once, the Wikipedia profile is a bit sketchy. NPR picks up the slack, however. It says that Turrentine’s dad was a sax player and mom a stride piano player. His brother, Tommy, was a well-known trumpet player who as associtated with many of the big name jazz musicians and bands of the day.

NPR says that Turrentine was “one of most distinctive tenor saxophonists in jazz” with a “big, warm” sound. His career spanned R&B and jazz, with a number one hit and four Grammy nominations. He found commercial success playing behind the Hammond B3 organ of Jimmy Smith and his wife, vocalist Shirley Scott.

The great looking site JazzGiants.net offers a comprehensive profile of Turrentine. It goes into great depth, starting with the interesting fact that his first job after high school – he had played in his brother’s band in Pittsburgh while in school – was in the Lowell Fulson band, where he played alongside the young Ray Charles. He replaced John Coltrane in Earl Bostic’s band a few years later. The profile is deep, detailed and interesting. It doesn’t, however, offer any overarching perspective on Turrentine. It examines the trees very closely, but leaves the forest for others.

Turrentine observed late in his career that he was associated with various styles of music through the years but his playing was consistent. Above is “Sugar” and below is “Don’t Mess with Mr. T.,” which was written by Marvin Gaye. ” Both were hits for Turrentine.