Al Turner
(Megawave Records)

al turnerEven when it’s played as a melodic instrument like a guitar, the bass has never been a popular instrument in the smooth jazz world—although the success of Wayman Tisdale in the late 90s and throughout the 2000s have helped mainstream it a little. That’s great and encouraging news for Detroit native Al Turner, whom fans of contemporary jazz and R&B have been listening to for years without knowing it. His extensive credits include Aretha Franklin, Oleta Adams, Nancy Wilson, Anita Baker Randy Crawford, Bob James, David Benoit and fellow Motor City groovemeister Earl Klugh. Over the years, Turner has also toured with Benoit, Adams, Cheryl Lynn and Everette Harp and was even working with Baker pre-fame when she was with Free Spirit.

Taking on the spirit of the title of his 2005 debut It’s Good To Have Friends, he works with the high energy funk help of saxman Harp and guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. on a few key tracks of the mostly hard grooving, always soulful and funky Movin’. Indie artists trying to break ranks among the smooth jazz artists who dominate the radio charts will often play it laid back, but Turner gets down and groovin’ from the get go, jamming it up with Harp on “Stop Watch” before chilling just a bit on “Bassin’.”

To show that he’s not afraid to go against the radio friendly grain just a bit, he blends his low tones with the wistful swirls of Charles Scales’ flute (an instrument which rarely gets airplay) on the throbbing title track. Curiously, after some major risktaking, Turner settles into a more mainstream, go with the flow approach that shows off his penchant for cool sensuality as much as high octane blowing. “It’s Good To Have Friends” is breezy gospel flavored cool, while the romantic “Te Quiero” dreams along as a tender, easy rolling duet with Klugh’s always charming nylon string guitar. Adams chimes in lead vocals on a more overt gospel tune, “Your Will,” which clues the listener in that Turner has his soul steeped in both worlds. Overall this is one of the most compelling indie contemporary jazz releases of 2008.


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- Jonathan Widran