Stanley Turrentine, 66, a veteran jazzman known for creativity and innovation, whose honeyed sound on the tenor sax won him renown as "The Sugar Man," died yesterday at a hospital in New York City. Mr. Turrentine, who lived in Fort Washington, had suffered a stroke three days ago.
A brawny bear of a man, Mr. Turrentine blazed a jazz trail that stretched for half a century, winning four Grammy nominations and a reputation as one of the world masters of his instrument.
Born in Pittsburgh on April 5, 1934, into a family that played, listened to and lived music, Mr. Turrentine played with many of the jazz greats and created a style of his own, becoming known as a synthesizer and originator.
Over the years, Mr. Turrentine produced more than 35 albums, including "In the Pocket," "Pieces of Dreams," "Stanley Turrentine," "Sugar," "Yester Me Yester You" and "T-Time."
During the last 15 years, when he lived in the Maryland suburbs, Mr. Turrentine was an important figure on the Washington musical scene. His activities included playing gigs at Blues Alley, working with students at the Duke Ellington High School of the Arts and performing at annual benefit gospel concerts for Shiloh Baptist Church.
Few performers matched his reputation for versatility. He was admired as a composer of up-tempo pieces, a sax man at jam sessions, a gifted interpreter of classics of the jazz genre, a bluesman and a balladeer.
His name was associated with be-bop, with rhythm and blues, and with a blended form known as "soul jazz."
Much of his virtuosity has been traced to his origins and upbringing. "My whole family plays music," he once said. "I was raised with it. My mother played piano. My father put a saxophone in my hands and taught me to play one note at a time."
It was at home that Mr. Turrentine was taught to not merely listen to the sounds coming from the family radio, but to actually hear them. Home was a place where Mr. Turrentine was called upon after dinner to identify by ear the artists playing solo on the air.
It was said that Mr. Turrentine went to sleep on many nights while listening to his mother play gospel piano at a church next door.
In high school, he had a band. Early performances came at school proms and at basketball games. At age 16, he went on the road with a blues band, beginning a long period of paying his musical dues.
"We played in little towns you'd never think of," he said. "We played in barns, yes, barns."
Those were the years of segregation and long night drives to bypass the hotels that would not take in the bandsmen.
At places Mr. Turrentine played, "they used to rope off the dance floor, blacks on one side, whites on the other side, but they were all dancing to the same music."
Later, he played for the Earl Bostic Big Band, then entered the Army and played for three years in an Army band.
He was a man who trusted his instincts and followed a personal vision. Beyond what technique made possible, he said, his music came from within. "I play from the gut," he once said.
Finding nothing in music to be alien, he was credited with a personal fusion of the old and the new, of almost anything musical that could be heard or played on the airwaves, or in the clubs.
"A lot of people ask me what I'm trying to do, and it's exactly that," he said.