Listening to tenor saxophone perennial Stanley Turrentine, you can discover the secret of his success by focusing on the falsetto yelps that punctuate his bright, hard tone or on his smooth-as-suede, disarmingly facile improvisations. These stylistic trademarks represent Turrentine’s ability to fuse the rigors of 1950s hard bop–the idiom on which he cut his teeth–with the sweet yearnings of 60s soul and its various pop heirs. This union of two seemingly disparate branches of black music helped distinguish his blues-drenched Blue Note dates of the 60s, and made sense of later projects that incorporated strings and eventually dance rhythms. (Well, it was the 70s.) Turrentine has never stopped pleasing his fans, but he has rarely stooped to mere populism: most of the time, his music maintains its hard-bop roots so clearly–and with such equanimity–that even hard-core jazzers can find plenty to appreciate. (In this sense, though his playing is lighter toned and more urbane, Turrentine can trace his lineage back to the great Chicago tenor man Gene Ammons.) Recent appearances have proved that Turrentine still plays at the top of his game, talking tough on blues and bop tunes, addressing ballads with a sexy, urgent caress, and paring down the excesses of like-minded saxophonists to create elegantly concise improvisations. He brings to town a simpatico accompanist in pianist Kenny Drew Jr. Drew has an impressive pedigree–his father, the great hard-bop pianist, composer, and tonal colorist, worked with such giants as Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon–and he brings to his music a maturity and depth missing in the work of most other second-generation jazz players. His playing ranges from the nakedly exploratory to the unexpectedly pastoral, and provides another reason entirely to catch Turrentine’s sets. Tuesday through next Sunday, November 3, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Ching Ming.