Stanley Turrentine's stint with Creed Taylor's CTI label may not have produced any out-and-out classics on the level of the very best LPs by Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, or George Benson, but the bluesy tenorist's output was consistently strong and worthwhile for all but the most stridently anti-fusion listeners. Salt Song was Turrentine's second album for CTI, and while it's perhaps just a small cut below his debut Sugar, it's another fine, eclectic outing that falls squarely into the signature CTI fusion sound: smooth but not slick, accessible but not simplistic. In general, keyboardist Eumir Deodato's arrangements have plenty of light funk and Brazilian underpinnings, the latter often courtesy of percussionist Airto Moreira. The first three cuts are the most memorable, beginning with a ten-minute exploration of the abrupt time signature shifts of Freddie Hubbard's "Gibraltar." Though a hard bop version might have returned to the theme a little less often, Turrentine's solo sections are full of ideas, befitting one of his favorite pieces of the period; plus, guitarist Eric Gale shines as both a rhythm and lead player. The traditional gospel tune "I Told Jesus" features Turrentine at his bluesiest and earthiest, with snatches of ethereal choir vocals floating up behind him. Milton Nascimento's title track, naturally, has the strongest Brazilian flavor of the program, and Turrentine skillfully negotiates its frequent shifts in and out of double time. The 1997 CD reissue also includes Nascimento's "Vera Cruz" as a bonus track. All in all, Salt Song has dated well, partly because the arrangements don't overemphasize electric piano, but mostly on the strength of Turrentine's always-soulful playing.
- Steve Huey (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
A tenor saxophonist lives by his sound. Without an immediately identifiable sonic signature where a single gust of wind through the horn can be as telling as a calling card a saxman might as well never leave the house. All the technique in the world isn't going to get you over if you don't have a tone you can call your own. Stylistic identity is an issue that tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine never has to lose sleep over. What he's got you can't learn in any school. Not only is this distinctive stylist unmistakably recognizable within seconds of being heard, he's also a genuine communicator. On his superior recordings Salt Song being a prime example"-Turrentine wins over listeners by way of his emotional delivery and complete absence of pretense. His horn speaks the language of his heart, direct and unfiltered.
Turrentine was already a seasoned veteran when he began recording for CTI in 1970, the labels first year as an independent entity. The tenorist's Sugar, featuring such major jazz figures as trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and guitarist George Benson, had become an immediate hit- expectations ran high for Turrentine's next project.
Salt Song corned a lot of ground, touching on r&b, gospel, Brazilian jazz and jazz-funk fusion. Uniting it all was the authoritative voice of the saxophonist. Turrentine sounds comfortable and inspired no matter the genre; his unadorned lines tracing airborne, blues-inflected melodies- melodies that seem to dance to their own super-charged rhythmic pulse. His ballads go way down deep; his uptempo forays romp and roll.
No matter how commanding a featured soloist is. it never hurts to be surrounded by great musicians. The supporting cast of Salt Song is eclectic yet remarkably cohesive. Bassist for the session was the omnipresent Ron Carter, a CTI staple. Billy Cobham, right on the cusp of joining John Mclaughlin in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, manned the drums, while Airto Moreira-who had played with Miles Oavis, as had Carter and Cobham-handled his arsenal of Brazilian percussion. Keyboardists included noted jazzman Horace Parian. Brazilian arranger Eumir Deodato (who would hit big hi 1972 with Ins adaptation of "Also Sprach Zarathustra") and the legendary sessionman Richard Tee. It Turrentine shares the spotlight with any other musician on Salt Song, it's guitarist Eric Gale. Equally at home with jazz, r&b and pop, Gale was a studio star throughout the 1960s and 70s. His featured solos expertly display his sweet-and-sour attack, while his chorda! support never fails to provide just the right harmonic flair and rhythmic boost.
Freddie Hubbard's "Gibraltar" immediately announces Turrentine's funky intentions. Carter and Cobham lay down a fatback groove that provides Turrentine and Gale with a propulsive cushion on which to improvise solos stocked full of flavorful r&b phrases. The traditional gospel tune. "I Told Jesus" brings out rootsy. heart-felt statements from the tenorman and his guitarist. Milton Nascimentos "Salt Song" benefits greatly from the rhythmic interchange of Cobhams stop-on-a-dime drumming and Moreiras chattering percussion (and don't miss Turrentine's "Jeepers Creepers" quote.) The silky ballad "I Haven't Got Anything Better To Do," catches Turrentine in a lush after-hours mood; his "Storm" moves to an easy-rolling funk beat that gives both the leader and Gale plenty to sink their chops into.
The addition of "Vera Cruz" is a beauty. Another gorgeous and characteristically ingenious Nascimento composition, "Vera Cruz" finds Moreira behind the trap drums as well as inducing delightful sounds from his myriad collection of instruments. Turrentine answers the call of the infectious rhythms and sprightly electric piano accompaniment with elegantly impassioned improvising, injecting some New York grit into the Brazilian proceedings.
Apart from its immediate musical pleasures, Salt Song also triumphs as a prime lesson in straight forward musical communication. The ability to grab a listener's lapel and elicit response to the sheer power of instrumental expressiveness remains a rare gift. Thankfully, it's a gift Turrentine was more than eager to share.
- Steve Futterman