Monday, March 21, 2005

Steve Turre – The Spirits Up Above (High Note, 2005)

This album is Steve Turre’s tribute to his former boss, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and is made up of some of Kirk’s best known compositions along with a couple of Turre originals. The musicians on this project include the leader on trombone, James Carter on tenor saxophone and flute, Vincent Herring on alto saxophone, Dave Valentin on flute, Mulgrew Miller on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Winard Harper on drums. Some vocalists also join the group on a few songs.

Blasting off with one of Kirk’s most well known tunes “Three For the Festival” which has the three horns doing their best to approximate the one-man band that Rahsaan was. Carter also gets a nice flue spot on this song. Flute is also in the spotlight on the medley of “Serenade to a Cuckoo/Bright Moments” which features Dave Valentin’s light and airy sound. Vocals are added to the title track which heads into gospel territory and the final track “Volunteered Slavery” which turns into a rousing swinger with the riffing horns encouraging the vocalists.

Turre is a very democratic leader, giving a lot of solo space to his heavy hitting sidemen, but he manages to sneak in some nice solo and ensemble work. Carter is great on this outing, Kirk’s swaggering compositions fit his gregarious and flashy nature well. All in all, this is a thoughtful and successful tribute album. It’s a shame Kirk’s compositions haven’t been embraced by more musicians, as this album shows, in the right hands they have a lot going for them.

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