The Steve Turre Sextet descended on the Pabst Theatre stage and delivered an evening of jazz not soon to be forgotten. Plentiful were the reasons that made this a memorable show. Articulate and infectious describes both the music and Mr. Turre's commentary between numbers. An All-Star band flexed their musical muscles throughout two sets of hard-driving jazz. Extremely democratic leading the band, Turre may have spent less time soloing than anyone else in the group. Everyone took multiple solos, keeping the audiences attention on short, medium, an extended solos alike.
Turre demonstrated he knows how to run a band. First, and most important, he began with the right ingredients, surrounding himself with top flight musicians. Mulgrew Miller, on piano, was wonderful, complementing masterful technique with soulful, bluesy runs reminiscent of the late Gene Harris. The bass was manned by Ray Drummond, who takes the instrument to another level. Cecil Brooks III, an underrated drummer, soloed with fire and grace.
Unique instrumentation rounded out the group, underlying Turre's willingness to take chances, another characteristic of a great bandleader. Akua Dixon, on cello, and John Blake, on violin, offered a welcome change of pace from more common jazz instrumentation. Possessing a fluid jazz vocabulary, they both made a strong case for these instruments in a jazz setting. In addition to playing the trombone, Turre also played his signature seashells. The shells sounded, at times, like a stringed instrument, complementing Dixon and Blake nicely.
A combination of originals and standards, along with the distinctive instrumentation, showcased Turre's arranging ability. The band opened with a Turre original, In the Spur of the Moment, which began with a tension building intro before taking off with an energetic melody. Chairman of the Board, another Turre original, paid honor to master trombonist J.J. Johnson. All Blues was a great canvas for the seashells and the cello. Dixon's solo was classic, recreating the haunting blues feeling found on the original recording.
Another endearing quality of the band was the fact they were enjoying themselves and consequently played two hearty sets of music. Add an encore, featuring the vocal talents of Akua Dixon, and you get an evening of jazz satisfying the quality, quantity, and variety requirements of even the healthiest jazz appetites.