In my book, the perennially popular (and populist) tenor saxist Stanley Turrentine deserves his success. Grounded in the hard-bop jazz of the 50s, he managed to fuse the rigors of that idiom with the sweet yearnings of 60s soul music and its various pop heirs–no easy trick. This union finds voice in the falsetto yelps that punctuate his bright hard tone, and in his remarkably smooth and facile improvisations; you can hear it back on his late-50s records with Max Roach, on his soulful Blue Note dates of the 60s, and even on his projects merging strings (and later, dance rhythms) in the 70s. And on last year’s If I Could–which sums up his career by touching on many of those stylistic phases, with top-notch accompaniment throughout–Turrentine proved he hasn’t lost a step. He can’t afford to, either, with the excellent young quintet under his leadership. It stars two relatively unknown soloists. Guitarist Dave Stryker boasts enormous technique, rock-hard swing, and a penchant for finely sculpted solos, while the piano dynamo Kei Akagi’s compact and powerful touch adds an extra dimension to his busy solos, pushing them way beyond the merely glossy. Stryker and Akagi raise the stakes for Turrentine–who despite his silky, sexy way with a ballad can still talk a plenty tough tenor. When he does, he reminds us that in jazz circles he was the original Mr. T, years before that muscled Mohawked cartoon of the same name. Friday through Sunday, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan. 427-4846.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carol Friedman.