This weeks album I am reviewing is a album by a musician that I believe is underrated. The album is Sugar by Stanley Turrentine. Turrentine I feel is quiet underrated. His discography is immense and he was a sidemen on albums from everyone from Donald Byrd to Austrud Gilberto. This ability to adapt, change with the times, and play different styles at a very high level separates Turrentine from the rest. Sugar is Turrentine’s seminal album featuring Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, George Benson on guitar, Ron Carter on bass, Butch Cornell on organ, Billy Kaye on drums and Stanley Turrentine on saxophone. This album is a jazz classic and a must have for all jazz aficionados.
The album begins on the title track “Sugar”. This song is a jazz classic. A soulful, blues influenced tune with a medium tempo and a great groove. All the musicians are listening to each other and interacting with each other from the very beginning. Turrentine solos first and you can hear George Benson interacting with Turrentine during his solo. Benson fills in the gaps Turrentine leaves, plays short sweet licks, and changes dynamics adding tension with his comping. The solo is not just a opportunity for Turrentine to “vent”. The solo is a collaborative effort and every musician here has a part to play.
Following Turrentine Freddie Hubbard solos on trumpet. Immediately you hear the dynamics change as everyone gets a little quieter and gives Hubbard room to operate. Ron Carter on bass is a lot more clear to listen to now as Benson is backing off and quietly comping when appropriate. Billy Kaye is doing a great job keeping time making sure the pulse of the music stays consistent.George Benson keeps the party going as he begins to solo. Now the organ is more apparent as it comps just enough to give you context and keep the harmony going. During Benson’s solo Turrentine begins to play a lick as a sort of accompaniment. Following Benson’s solo we come back to the head and then fade out.
The next tune on the record is titled “Sunshine Alley” it was written by organist Butch Cornell. This tune is a groovy, funky, bluesy tune. It fits perfectly into this album and is a great follow up to “Sugar”. The first solo is by none other then Butch Cornell and man he just kills it. He just hammers away playing some great melodic ideas, some great dyads and chords, this is a well constructed solo. Benson is next and he plays with the same style as Cornell did. Both the guitar and organ are chordal instruments and while Benson plays a different solo he utilized a lot of things his guitar can do that the organ can also accomplish. Freddie Hubbard comes along and adds another layer to the sound. He plays a combination of long tones as well as running blues inspired lines. Stanely Turrentine gives you more of the same in a good way. He stays in the blues, funk, soul, environment that the tune and the other improvisers have created. Following his solo we return to the original melody and conclude the tune.
Next is the John Coltrane song “Impressions” I like this rendition a lot. It’s not as fast but still up, it has a organ which the original does not, and Turrentine’s group keeps that soul jazz blues feel even in this modal tune. This alteration is nice and adds a different component the original did not have nor intend. The combo quickly goes through the head and Turrentine blows over the tune first. Here you can hear a lot more organ as the guitar is no longer the prominent comping instrument. Following Turrentine’s solo is Butch Cornell. Again, just a joy to listen to. He truly goes through and explores all the possibilities that are available on the organ it’s a joy to listen to him solo. Midway through his solo Turrentine and Freddie Hubbard create a melodic line and vamp on it while Cornell solos over it. This to me is the highlight of the song as Cornell keeps going and holds nothing back.
Freddie Hubbard solos next and builds a great solo as well. Midway through his solo the drums and the rhythm section get more involved as you can hear the bass and drums respond and interact with Freddie. The melodic line comes back again as Freddie pushes the boundaries and begins to play some free jazz inspired lines around the 8 minute mark. He comes out of this approach and concludes his solo. Benson solos last and brings us back into the head following the vamp on that melodic line.
On my version of the album Sugar the next song on the album is a bonus live version of “Sugar” which adds a flute, a different drummer Billy Cobham, a different bassist Hubert Laws , and a different organists Johnny Hammond. This is a great version of “Sugar” as it adds a extra 14 minutes of music. Other versions of this album won’t have this. Other version also have a extra tune “Gibraltar” mine does not thus I didn’t review this song. Sugar is such a beloved album that it has been re issued several times and I’m sure it will be re issued again sometime in the future. Just check the different versions and see which is to your liking. Either way with Sugar you can’t go wrong. Stanley Turrentine passed away in 2000 so sadly there is no chance to hear him playing live again. So please listen to as many of his albums as you can. The title track “Sugar” is still played regularly today. Keeping Stanley’s legacy alive and a must know tune for any Jazz musician. I love everything about this album even down to the creepy cover. I mean judging this album by it’s cover who would think the music would be any good? Lucky for us it is. Proving once again that you can’t judge a album by its cover. Until next time, thank you for staying in The Jazz Loop.