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'Spiritman' is a welcome addition to Smoke Sessions’ expanding catalog.

Music Review: Steve Turre – ‘Spiritman’

Trombonist Steve Turre’s Spritman, due for a March 10, 2015 release, will be joining what has become a long list of powerful jazz recordings in the Smoke Sessions Records series. The series, which has produced winning albums from Harold Mabern, Jimmy Cobb, Louis Hayes, Cyrus Chestnut, Orrin Evans and Nathan East, among others, has been releasing a new album a month through last September with ambitious plans to put out between 10 and 20 a year. To date the music has been top shelf, and Spiritman is equally fine.

Turre leads a quintet featuring Bruce Williams on alto and soprano sax, Xavier Davis on piano, Gerald Cannon on bass, and Willie Jones lll on drums. Besides trombone, Turre plays around with shells on several tracks and one track has Chembo Corniel working the congas. They are a tight professional ensemble with real chemistry.

The 10-tune set opens with the first of five Turre originals, “Bu.” Bu, Turre explains in the liner notes, is a nickname for drummer Art Blakey of the fabled Jazz Messengers, whom he credits with bringing him up to New York as a young man. Among the other original compositions are “Funky Thing” written for the Saturday Night Live Band and “Trayvon’s Blues” which moves from mellow to raw “with all hell breaking loose,” by way of musical social criticism. Turre picks up the shells at the end, when he says he is “calling for help.” The song is an emotional powerhouse. “Nangadef” means “hello” in the Wolof language from Senegal, and adds a Latin element to the set. The album’s title tune closes the set where it is paired as an introduction to Miles Davis’ “All Blues.”steve turre - spiritman

The rest of the album is made up of jazz standards like Horace Silver’s gorgeous “Peace,” and tunes plucked from the Great American Songbook like Gershwin’s “’S Wonderful.” They romp through an uptempo version of “With a Song in my Heart,” and fill the ballad “It’s Too Late Now” with some interesting solo work.

All in all, Spiritman is a welcome addition to Smoke Sessions’ expanding catalog. One can only hope they will continue coming with the same high quality performance.

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