CTI Records

Stanley Turrentine: Salt Song

Although Stanley Turrentine has been quoted as the first member of the CTI cast who fomented dissension among the other CTI artists on the label, collaborating to accentuate the many problems that chief producer Creed Taylor was suffering when Stanley decided to move to Fantasy Records in late ’73, the great tenor saxophone player never failed to recognize the importance of Creed in the development of his career.

In an interview for Down Beat in October ’78, Stanley told Bret Primack: “I have to take my hat off to Creed Taylor. Although we did bump heads quite a few times, I have to give him credit for what he had the nerve to do. Creed really set a precedent as far as getting the music out…We gave our services for that company because we all believed in us and was going to do the right thing by us. But then it got to the point where they said that if it wasn’t for CTI, where would we be? To a point, they were correct. But without us, where would they be? It’s a two way street. It got to the point where things were very uncomfortable so one by one, we all left.”

During his CTI years, however, Stanley saw his career reaching an unprecedented popularity, with audiences and album sales growing steadily. In this process, “Salt Song” (KICJ 8113) represented a milestone. It was his second solo album for the label, the follow-up to the famous “Sugar” (KICJ 8037), and Creed Taylor’s idea was to bridge a gap between the straight-ahead blues-oriented sound for which Stanley was already well-known – with a prominent role to the organ in the combo – and the lush CTI “crossover” concept that became one of the label’s trademarks.

To provide the orchestral settings on “Salt Song”, Creed invited Eumir Deodato, enraptured with the tremendous potential of the young Brazilian arranger. Stanley and Deodato had worked before on the album “Gilberto with Turrentine” (KICJ 8039), and then, three months later, on July ’71, they were back at Rudy Van Gelder Studios, surrounded by a notable cast of players: Ron Carter (who was the bassist on all Stanley’s albums for CTI), Billy Cobham, Airto Moreira, Horace Parlan, and the late Richard Tee and Eric Gale, among others.

Stanley had already recorded the opening tune, Freddie Hubbard-penned “Gibraltar”, one year before on the sessions that yielded “Sugar”, but Creed decided not to include none of the two existing versions in the original album release because he simply found both too monotonous. But with a new and very different arrangement by Deodato, “Gibraltar” finally appeared on “Salt Song”, fueled by a sensuous groove and inventive contributions by Ron Carter (playing inimitable glissandos), Eric Gale (filling up the harmony), and Airto (bringing the unusual sound of a Brazilian wood-percussion instrument called “reco-reco”). We also have to note how the musicians keep constantly changing the tempo, flowing so naturally as if they had been doing this all their lives.

Turrentine moves into a reflexive mood on “I Told Jesus”, a traditional tune that he beautifully adapted with the assistance of Deodato. There’s an inherent gospel feeling, accentuated by Richard Tee’s organ, allowing Stanley the space to display his “soulfulness” and big tone. On his turn, Deodato showcases one of his abilities that always impressed Creed Taylor: the way he can make a small string section (in this particular case, consisting of 6 violins, 1 viola, and 2 cellos) sound as large as in a symphonic orchestra.

The title track, “Salt Song”, was first recorded by its composer, Milton Nascimento, on his American debut album – “Courage”, arranged by Deodato and produced by Creed Taylor in ’68 when CTI was a production company for A&M. Deodato created a new superb arrangement for Turrentine, with astonishing rhythmic colors (Airto overdubs on congas and tambourine, replacing Billy Cobham on drums for the solo) and undulant strings. Stanley builds up his best solo on the album, playing with fire, swing and inventiveness, even quoting “Jeepers Creepers”.

Stanley’s ballad artistry is featured on “I Haven’t Got Anything Better To Do”, a pop-hit from the ‘60s rarely heard as an instrumental vehicle by jazzmen, but recorded by several singers of such diverse styles as Astrud Gilberto and Esther Philips (listen to Esther’s version on the compilation “Kiss Jer Soul”, KICJ 180). Deodato’s string score is excellent – polished, subtle and very effective.

The leader himself wrote the latin-tinged “Storm”, on which Airto once again employs several percussion instruments with incomparable accuracy. The melody is played by Stanley and Eric Gale in unison, and they also perform inspired solos.

After leaving CTI, Stanley recorded for Fantasy, Elektra, Blue Note, and MusicMasters, and currently he is signed to the recently revitalized Impulse! label. As he got closer to pop music, even doing “disco” albums in the late ‘70s, the brilliant musician lost many of his admirers and won a few others. In artistic terms, Stanley’s career went downhill and never could – not even when recording again for CTI in ’81, as a member of the all-star group Fuse One on the album “Silk” (KICJ 8042) – equal the celebrated golden years at CTI. And, among such marvelous albums he did for the label, “Salt Song” is regarded by many as his masterpiece.

Arnaldo DeSouteiro

(IAJE – International Association of Jazz Educators)

Tokyo, November, 1995