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Steve Turre: The Bones of Art

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Trombonist Steve Turre, a man of often-brusque opinions, has never disguised his distaste for the compromising frills some artists deploy to enhance their commercial appeal. By contrast, Turre’s own reputation has been boosted by his knack for coming up with meaty themes for his projects that enrich both the history and future of the Afro-Cuban hard-bop tradition. In that vein, The Bones of Art is a typically inspired Turre gambit: Gather four trombonists-all, like Turre, alumni of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers-together in varying groups of three to perform their original compositions in front of a rhythm section likewise simpatico with Blakey’s legacy. The Blakey template encourages both a collaborative spirit and an emphasis on the individual characteristics that made each of these trombonists headliners in his own right.

Hence, Frank Lacy delivers a dynamic solo within the context of a growling blues tune. (The surprise is hearing Lacy’s composition, “Settegast Strut,” blossom into a multi-hued portrait of his Houston boyhood to become the best track on the disc.) The pair of songs from Steve Davis are fleet and cerebral, including an homage to Charlie Parker titled “Bird Bones” and a Latin number, “Daylight,” featuring Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez and Turre’s lone use of his conch shells. The odd time signatures and buttery tone favored by Robin Eubanks are on display in a Turre composition played with and for Eubanks, “4&9,” before Eubanks drops his own joint in honor of Blakey and Wayne Shorter, titled “Shorter Bu.”

Turre’s other five songs continue his penchant for playing and paying it forward, with each nodding to a trombone forebear. Be it the ebullient grooves of Slide Hampton (“Slide’s Ride”), the burnished modal amble of Curtis Fuller (“Fuller Beauty”) or the lush majesty of Ellington and his first trombonist, Lawrence Brown (“Blue and Brown”), Turre lets it be known whose shoulders bear his footprints.

Last but not least, the rhythm section kills-bassist (and Blakey alumnus) Peter Washington, drummer Willie Jones III and the exemplary pianist Xavier Davis. The ‘bones are not the only art here.

Originally Published