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

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.

This post on Stanley Turrentine at Canonball Music has no fewer than three writers (Rob Porter, Michael Erlewine, and Ron Wynn From the All Music Guide). The trio says that “Turrentine will always be an original, a one-of-a-kind. He does not fit neatly into ordinary jazz categories. What makes Turrentine great is his deep love of the roots of jazz — blues and groove music. He never abandoned these roots to join the more cerebral set of jazz soloists. His recording partnership with Jimmy Smith has given us some of the finest funk groove music of all time, a high-water mark for both artists. This man loved to groove and play funky music! He couldn’t be tamed!” Check out his album “Sugar” at Amazon by clicking here or on the image. It’s also available at iTunes.
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.


Part of the bio of Stanley Turrentine at Cannonball Music was used in the blue box.

Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to TDMB's Free Newsletter.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

Get The Daily Music Break NewsletterIt's Free!