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JAZZ REVIEW | Steve Turre "Sanyas" by Jeff Cebulski


Steve Turre

Smoke Sessions Record, 2024.

By Jeff Cebulski | ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2


Trombonist and conch shell blower Steve Turre (who appears with a quintet at the Jazz Showcase from June 20 th through the 24 th ) has been called by “perhaps the most visible jazz trombonist of the 20 th and 21 st centuries.” Whether the website is referring to his recognizable facial hair features or his commanding stage presence, Turre has certainly crafted his own niche within the jazz world. Ever since his breakthrough album "Rhythm Within" in 1995, Turre has attracted fans worldwide with his deft mix of Latin and Eastern-infused compositions and interpretations, as well as his steady post bop chops.

But live material wasn’t part of his catalogue as a leader until recently, when "Sanyas" was released on Smoke Sessions Records. On this initial live release, one receives all the representations of Turre’s work, from straight-ahead bop to those exotic takes that flow through one’s soul. As a live recording, "Sanyas" is either too short at just over 49 minutes or refreshingly short, without any fluff or pretentious jamming.

What we get is a tidy and masterful display involving veteran musicians who have played with Turre before and are very comfortable with his music. As on Turre’s last album, "Generations" (Smoke Sessions), the cast of performers includes a septet consisting of Turre, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Ron Blake on tenor sax, Isaiah J. Thompson on piano, Buster Williams on bass, and Lenny White on drums.

The album begins with the title cut, a composition first heard when Turre played with a key mentor, the late trumpet hero Woody Shaw. On this effort, the modal jazz stew opens with a horn cacophony that leads to a Williams a la Paul Chambers intro that sets up a repeating piano chord riff from Thompson, over which an Eastern-tinged horn line expresses the song. Turre’s punchy solo, aggressively accompanied by White, is answered by Blake’s deeply-textured

response before Turre finishes with a shell coda.

“All the Things You Are” receives a quasi-big band swing treatment, and the horns deliver big time. Blake’s solo is a treat and Payton, who seems to have reclaimed his own bop chops, adds a spirited and crystal clear comment. The group’s interplay here is impressive, bolstered by Williams’ sturdy presence, Thompson’s stately riffing and soloing, and White’s energetic support.

A new ballad, “Wishful Thinking,” demonstrates Turre’s more lyrical side, with a tastefully restrained partner in Payton. Then Lee Morgan’s “Mr. Kenyatta” properly returns the ensemble back into exotic rhythm, with another conch shell solo added.

The CD/digital “bonus track” is “These Foolish Things,” which is rendered in soft swing, with Turre in plunger mode atop Williams’ lilting bass lines; Buster is, as usual, brilliant throughout the album.

"Sanyas" thus ends, leaving this listener with a craving for more. If you hear this album before Steve Turre, the continuously enticing trombonist, visits Chicago, you might start planning a visit to the Showcase to see and hear the consummate pro in action. If you can’t, this relatively brief but well-performed excursion can serve as a replacement for the time being.

Steve Turre, Sanyas. Smoke Sessions Records, 2024.

Steve Turre, trombone and conch

Nicholas Payton, trumpet

Ron Blake, tenor saxophone

Isaiah J. Thompson, piano

Buster Williams, bass

Lenny White, drums

About Jeff Cebulski

Jeff Cebulski, who lives in Chicago, is a retired English educator (both secondary and collegiate) and longtime jazz aficionado. His career in jazz includes radio programs at two stations in southeast Wisconsin, an online show on Kennesaw State’s (GA) Owl Radio from 2007 until 2015, and review/feature writing for Chicago Jazz Magazine since 2016, including his column "Jazz With Mr. C". He has interviewed many jazz artists, including Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd, Dave Holland, John Beasley, and Chris Brubeck, as well as several Chicago-based players. Jeff is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association. Contact Jeff at


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