For me, tenor saxist Stanley Turrentine’s strength has always lain in his ability to fuse the rigors of hard-bop with the sweet yearnings of 60s soul music. This union finds voice in the falsetto yelps that punctuate his bright, hard tone and in his remarkably smooth and facile improvisations, and you can hear it on his late-50s records with Max Roach, on his Blue Note dates of the 60s, and even on his pop successes with strings (and later, dance rhythm) in the 70s. Turrentine–the original Mr. T–has never left any doubt he can play the horn. What’s worth shouting about, however, is that despite his erstwhile successes as a pop/jazz saxist, he’s come to Chicago to strut his jazz chops–at least if the tunes heard opening night are any indication. His band boasts some impressive players a generation or so his junior, including the former Chicago bassist Lonnie Plaxico and Dave Stryker, a relatively unheralded guitar wizard with sound ideas and enormous technique. But the real star of the band is Kei Akagi, a dynamo last seen in Chicago playing electronic keyboards in Miles Davis’s band. With Turrentine, Akagi sticks to the piano and all but steals the show; his compact, powerful touch brings an extra dimension to his crowded solo runs, which prevents them from ever sounding merely glossy. There’s a lot of the younger Keith Jarrett in Akagi’s style, and he uses that foundation to build one galvanic solo after another. He’s worth the price of admission on his own. Tonight through Sunday, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lauren Deutsch.