The Trumpet Kings Meet Joe Turner: An Engaging Mix Of Styles
The MHS Review 371 Vol. 10, No. 11 1986
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Let's demolish a few popular myths, the first being that jazz is no fun anymore.
Let's demolish a few popular myths, the first being that jazz is no fun anymore. You might think that if your musical diet has been restricted to the thin gruel of Miles Davis' "Time after Time" and his listless playing on the You're under Arrest album, or the postnuclear lamentations of Sting on The Dream of the Blue Turtles. But rejoice! The joy of jazz thrives in past, present, and future MHS offerings.
On this album four of the century's greatest trumpeters and one of its best blues singers indulge themselves and us in over 40 minutes of boisterous, shouting blues. They bring the heart and soul of jazz to the surface with brass choruses, splendid improvisation, and that sexladen, laid-back voice of Joe Turner.
Myth number two: the blues are a sad expression of black poverty and lost love. This myth dies, for here is nothing less than a celebration of daily life and the power of human relationships. They are reflected in Turner's comment upon his "TV momma" with the big wide screen and in the inability of the four trumpeters (Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Harry "Sweets" Edison, and Clark Terry) to stop themselves from hollering at each other with their horns with all the wit and vivacity imaginable. On much of this album we are not far from the feel of gospel music, which is exactly right given the backgrounds of all these musicians.
Myth number three: the blues remains the basic primitive source of black music; modern jazz musicians have wandered far from the source and cannot get the feel of the blues in their flirtations with modality, flatted thirteenths, etc. Prepare yourself for a shock if you believe that. Dizzy Gillespie, on "Tain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," squeezes out such plaintive refrains, building his solo with such beautiful restraint, that it is hard to remember that this man is responsible for the obliqueness of bop.
Roy Eldridge, Gillespie's mentor, is nothing short of a miracle on "Momin', Noon and Night." He roughens and broadens the sound of his horn until it possesses the characteristics of those tin trumpets we used to buy at the fair and "toot" all the way home, the difference being that "Little Jazz" Eldridge shatters our notions of propriety in order to parallel Turner's raw-boned commands to his woman. Clark Terry and Harry Edison mute their instruments during solos to give us a bemused, elegant series of comments that would be worthy of urban cousins out in the country for a holiday.
And then there is Turner himself, whose voice reminds one of a kind of gumbo you can get in New Orleans that is flat and thick on the surface but reveals all kinds of surprises once you dip in your spoon. Joe takes the blues at his leisure, lagging along behind the beat to suddenly burst forth with a
"leavethedishesinthesinkandcomeoverherewoman" that dismays and astonishes us in its assuredness of cadence.
Myth number four: there is a generation gap among jazz players, and the types of music played by the different generations cannot be fixed. If anything, this album proves that there is no gap and that the mix of modern improvisation with basic blues harmonies is exciting and challenging. Eldridge and Edison are from the swing era, while Terry is a transitional figure and Gillespie is one of the fathers of bop. Yet they all complement each other so well; they all have such a comprehensive knowledge of the entire history of the jazz trumpet that it is a major task to pull the voices apart for analysis. For this is not a "cutting" session of competition between players, but an effort by all to see just how continuous they can make the improvised line. And in that accumulated sound we hear everything from the early days of Armstrong to 52nd Street and beyond.
As for the mix of styles, it is engaging. The accompanists add just the right touch to the whole. Pee Wee Crayton plays a ringing, open, acoustically oriented guitar that presents the ambiance of collard greens. And although it isn't in the credits Jimmy Robins switches between "churchy" piano and "backroom" Hammond organ on "I Know You Love Me Baby" in a way that delights and amuses. If you want to shout, sing, laugh, and dance, get this album, Even my 14-year-old daughter liked it.
Review of The Trumpet Kings Meet Joe Turner: Page 67