Stanley Turrentine, an iconic figure in the realm of jazz saxophone, was a powerhouse in the evolution of the hard bop and soul-jazz genres. With a distinctive, robust sound on the tenor saxophone, Turrentine left an indelible mark on the jazz landscape that continues to inspire musicians today.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1934, Turrentine was introduced to music at an early age by his musician father. His brother, Tommy Turrentine, also became a well-known jazz trumpeter. Stanley’s journey as a professional musician began in the early 1950s when he toured with blues and R&B bands, developing a strong, earthy sound rooted in blues.
After his early years in R&B, Turrentine ventured into the jazz world, joining Max Roach’s band in the late 1950s. His time with Roach significantly impacted his music style, facilitating his growth as a hard bop musician. Turrentine’s reputation as a leading saxophonist was cemented during this period, gaining the attention of esteemed record label Blue Note Records.
Turrentine’s tenure with Blue Note in the 1960s and early ’70s is considered the most productive and influential period of his career. Here, he delivered some of his most recognized works, like “Look Out!” and “Sugar,” which have since become staples in the jazz saxophone repertoire. His records from this period were marked by a distinctive blend of soulful, blues-inflected hard bop, which stood out in the jazz scene and gave Turrentine a unique voice.
During this period, Turrentine also frequently collaborated with organist Shirley Scott, who became his wife in 1961. Their musical partnership, combining Turrentine’s tenor saxophone with Scott’s Hammond B3 organ, resulted in a distinctive and highly influential sound in the soul-jazz genre.
In the later stages of his career, Turrentine explored various other genres, including fusion and smooth jazz. He demonstrated his versatility and ability to adapt to changing musical landscapes, further securing his place as an influential figure in jazz.
Beyond his recordings, Turrentine was a dynamic performer, captivating audiences with his robust sound and expressive playing style. His deep, soulful tone—sometimes referred to as his “big, warm tenor sound”—and his distinctive style, blending sophistication with soulful expressiveness, set him apart in the field of jazz. Although he never won, Turrentine was nominated for 3 Grammy Awards over the course of his career.
Stanley Turrentine passed away in 2000, leaving behind a rich legacy as a leading tenor saxophonist. His unique sound, deeply rooted in the blues, along with his contributions to hard bop and soul-jazz, continues to influence generations of saxophonists. Through his distinctive musical voice, Stanley Turrentine’s legacy lives on, a testament to his enduring influence in the world of jazz saxophone.
Page last updated 7/8/2023.