Even when it's played as a melodic instrument like a guitar, the bass has never been a popular instrument in the smooth jazz world -- although the success of Wayman Tisdale in the late '90s and throughout the 2000s has helped mainstream it a little. That's great and encouraging news for Detroit native Al Turner, whom fans of contemporary jazz and R&B have been listening to for years without knowing it. His extensive credits include Aretha Franklin, Oleta Adams, Randy Crawford, Bob James, and David Benoit. He's also toured with fellow Motor City groovemeister Earl Klugh for ten years and worked with a pre-fame Anita Baker when she was with Detroit club band Free Spirit. Taking on the spirit of the title of his 2005 debut, It's Good to Have Friends, he works with the high-energy funk help of saxman Everette Harp and guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. on a few key tracks of the mostly hard-grooving, always soulful and funky Movin'. Indie artists trying to break ranks among the smoothie artists who dominate the radio charts will often play it laid-back, but Turner gets down and groovin' from the get-go, jamming it up with Harp on "Stop Watch" before chilling just a bit on "Bassin'." To show that he's not afraid to go against the radio-friendly grain just a bit, he blends his low tones with the wistful swirls of Charles Scales' flute (an instrument that rarely gets airplay) on the throbbing title track. Curiously, after some major risk-taking, Turner settles into a more mainstream, go-with-the-flow approach that shows off his penchant for cool sensuality as much as high-octane blowing. "It's Good to Have Friends" is breezy gospel-flavored cool, while the romantic "Te Quiero" dreams along as a tender, easy-rolling duet with Klugh's always charming nylon-string guitar. Oleta Adams chimes in lead vocals on a more overt gospel tune, "Your Will," which clues the listener in that Turner has his soul steeped in both worlds. Overall, this is one of the most compelling indie contemporary jazz releases of 2008.
by Jonathan Widran