PERHAPS YOU can't go home again but there's no law that says you can't try. Compare, for example, saxophonist Stanley Turrentine's new Blue Note album "Straight Ahead" with the recently reissued "Joyride," one of many albums Turrentine cut for Blue Note in the '60s, and you'll find more similarities than differences. On both recordings, Turrentine is surrounded by top-notch musicians and he consciously attempts to play earnest yet accessible jazz, a music he all but abandoned in the '70s when disco swept the charts.
On "Straight Ahead" Turrentine divides his time between two bands, both accustomed to this sort of relaxed setting. When joined by George Benson, Ron Carter, Jimmy Smith and Jimmy Madison, Turrentine is especially persuasive. His lush, Ben Webster-ish tone is nicely offset and punctuated by the quartet on several tunes, including Benson's "Plum" and the title track. Likewise, the two selections that feature Les McCann on keyboards are thoughtful, uncomplicated and, in many ways, refreshingly old-fashioned.
For vintage Turrentine, though, turn to "Joyride" -- an all-star big band album smartly arranged and conducted by Oliver Nelson. Although the lineup includes Clark Terry, J.J. Johnson, Phil Woods, Herbie Hancock and Kenny Burrell, what really stands out is the winning combination of Turrentine's warm and full tone and Nelson's sensitive and often elegant arrangements. Highlights include the opening number, where the two brilliantly build on Percy Mayfield's laconic theme, "River's Invitation"; and Turrentine's compelling balladry on "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone."
STANLEY TURRENTINE -- "Straight Ahead" (Blue Note BT 85105); "Joyride" (Blue Note BST 84201); appearing at Blues Alley Friday through Sunday.