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Turning Point (1969)

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Lee Morgan

Most Blue Note soul-jazz albums from the late '60s went one of three ways: it either was a straight-ahead commercial session, a slightly psychedelic outing, or a funky workout with a vague "Black Power" theme.Dr. Lonnie Smith had followed the latter path with Think!, the predecessor to Turning Point, and there are still remnants of that style on this session, particularly in the opening cover of Don Covay's "See Saw." Nevertheless, Turning Point is a more adventurous affair than Think!, finding Smith -- as well as trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Julian Priester, guitarist Melvin Sparks, tenor saxophonist Bennie Maupin and drummer Leo Morris -- exploring territory that isn't quite free, but is certainly more "out there" than the average soul-jazz session. In particular, Smith's originals "Slow High" and "Turning Point" reach the outer edges of the style, playing with dissonance, complex melodies and expansive sound structures. Despite all these free flourishes, Turning Point remains a soul-jazz record and it has all the trappings of its era -- the take on "Eleanor Rigby" finds the group approximating psychedelia. While the more adventurous elements of Turning Point make for an intriguing listen, the album isn't quite as enjoyable as the harder grooving sessions or the spacier soul-jazz records from the same era. Nevertheless, it's a worthwhile listen.