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A Bluish Bag (1967)

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Donald Byrd

Stanley Turrentine's great blues-inflected tenor sax work for Blue Note Records in the 1960s helped build the template for what became known as soul-jazz, but Turrentine was always restless, and he recorded in a wide variety of formats, from trios to sextets, during his nine years at the label. This set, drawn from a pair of 1967 sessions, one in February that included Donald Byrd on trumpet, and the other in June with McCoy Tyner on piano, wasn't released by Blue Note at the time, although it is a smooth-running and varied album from start to finish, featuring several fine Turrentine sax solos over artfully arranged massed horn charts (eventually some of the tracks were released as Stanley Turrentine in 1975 and others as New Time Shuffle in 1979). Obvious highlights include the lead track, the lightly bouncing "Blues for Del," the title piece, "A Bluish Bag," composed by Henry Mancini and drawn from his Gunn movie soundtrack that had just come out that year, and the beautiful Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen ballad "Here's That Rainy Day," which allows Turrentine's concise, vibrato-free tenor sax playing to go tender and movingly soft. The large band arrangements mean that Turrentine often sits back in the mix here, but his solos, when they come, are always both appropriate and striking, a balance that is tougher to achieve than one might think. A Bluish Bag doesn't rewrite the book on Turrentine, but it shows that, whether large ensemble or small, he always brought his game. ~ Steve Leggett