He plays what he likes, likes what he plays

August 26, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Stanley Turrentine remembers the time when some well-meaning kid proposed to bring him "into the '90s."

To be honest, Turrentine wasn't entirely sure he needed to be brought into the '90s. After all, as the tenor saxophonist enters his 60th year, he still manages to work regularly, still makes records (in fact, he'll be cutting a new album for his current label, Music Masters, next month), and still has much of his back catalog in print. But being curious, he decided to hear the young man out.

"He was telling me how he was sampling these things," says Turrentine, over the phone from a New York hotel. "He gets this computer and a drum machine, and the old vinyl records we made years ago -- it was frightening to me. Because this cat, he was really enthused. He thought he was really creating something, like he was improvising.

"But it was something that was already there!" The saxophonist snorts in derision. "I couldn't hear anything but the drum DTC machine, this repetitious line that he was playing. And he wanted me to play over this thing.

"I didn't try to be mean, I told him, I wasn't putting the music down, but I didn't hear any musical content in it. And, after all these years I've been playing, I can't give up my integrity to play something like this that I don't believe in, or can't feel. I just won't play it."

It isn't that Turrentine is a jazz purist, mind you. He has no problem with pop music -- in fact, one of the most enduring songs in his repertoire is Marvin Gaye's "Don't Mess with Mister T." Says Turrentine, "I've been playing that ever since it came out. I play it every night, and it's never the same. You can play it so many different ways. You can really improvise on it.

"You know, I've been categorized as a jazz musician, a bebop musician, a fusion musician, a confusion musician," he adds, laughing. "All kinds of stuff. But I let the critics do the categorizing. I just like to play things I like to play."

That's why he's particular about what he plays and records, and refuses to consider anything that he can't feel in his heart. "You know, there are some things that I made 20 years ago and play every night," he says. "I've been playing them for 20 years.

"Now, could you imagine me playing something that I had to play, that became a hit, and I didn't like it? I would be miserable. Because when it ceases to be fun, it would become like work to me. And when it becomes work, man, I think I better find something else to do."

If you could . . .

To hear excerpts from Stanley Turrentine's latest album, "If I Could," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6159 after you hear the greeting.

Jazz concert

Who: Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, Gloria Lynne

When: Tonight at 7:30

Where: Pier Six Concert Pavilion

Tickets: $25 reserved seating, $17.50 lawn

Call: (410) 625-1400 or (800) 638-2444

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