Trombonist Steve Turre gathers a new ensemble with each succeeding record — holdovers are few and far between. Yet the bands usually mix highly esteemed veterans with precocious young'uns and retain a remarkably high level of quality control. So it goes on Delicious and Delightful<.i>. After justifiably getting some of the best reviews of his career for Rainbow People in 2008, Turre scrapped the core sextet (three of them headliners in their own right) and created a new one for a disc that echoes Rainbow People's mix of easy grooves, gruff-and-tough bop, gentle island rhythms and expertly lofted ballads.
Turre's recruitment coup on Delicious is tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, cherished by the jazz cognoscenti for his distinctive tone (acerbic and cleansing) and the depth and authority of his approach, yet woefully underutilized. He contributes a pair of tunes — the nimble and saucy "Light Within," which kicks off the album with Turre's conch shells and trombone and his rich tenor, and the ballad, "Speak to Me of Love, Speak To Me of Truth," an ideal vehicle for Turre's trombone. And his astringent saxophone often provides welcome counterpoint to the pacific flow and tone, whether providing eruptive punctuation on the strolling Ellington tribute, "Duke Rays," or driving home the already raucous title track with a deeper layer of enthusiasm, or reveling in the hard bop of "Blackfoot."
As always, however, Turre spreads the wealth of ensemble talent throughout the program. Guitarist Russell Malone provides the initial spunk on "Blackfoot" and spools out vintage phrases with the aplomb of Phil Upchurch on the latest of Turre's tributes to Ray Charles, the closing "Ray's Collard Greens." Young bassist Corcoran Holt gets out his bow for a beautiful solo that caps the humid, frond-waving languor of "Tenderly." Guest percussionist Pedro Martinez (the lone Rainbow People alumnus aside from Turre) adds to the relaxed but sophisticated funk of the perfectly named "Dance of the Gazelles," so that the group sounds like War with a masters in jazz. And pianist Larry Willis, as he did for so many years in Roy Hargrove's group, provides the secret ingredient for good chemistry that is part quicksilver and part glue.