Steve Turre has made a career out of creating and realizing projects that are firmly grounded in the jazz traditions, even when he's playing his conch shells. The Bones of Art may indeed be a first for jazz. Back in 1954, trombonists J.J. Johnson (Turre's greatest influence on the instrument) and Kai Winding recorded the first of five albums with a bone duo in the frontline. Here, Turre goes one better and features three in the frontline -- with no other horns. His companions are the last three trombonists to play in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers: Robin Eubanks (on three tracks) Frank Lacy, and Peter Washington (who lay out on one cut each). The rhythm section is comprised of drummer Willie Jones III, pianist Xavier Davis, and bassist Peter Washington. Turre wrote just over half of the tunes here, while his bandmates contributed the remainder. The program is mostly straight-ahead, deeply rooted in blues. Opener "Slide's Ride," with its breezy, yet knotty head and hard-grooving accents, is driving hard bop. Lacy's "Settegast Strut" features Davis' piano prominently; it's a joyful celebration of gospel, bop, and blues. The use of mutes on the funky soul jazz of Turre's "4 & 9," is contrasted beautifully by Rhodes piano and guest Kenny Davis on electric bass. The are tight melodic turns in the bridge and interludes, but it's a stone groover. Eubanks' "Shorter Bu" is modern post-bop in the intro, but its swing quotient is indomitable as the head opens up. The shimmering, nocturnal blues balladry in "Fuller Beauty" melds everything from cool jazz to Miles' early expressions of modal music in its seductive melody and tapestry of sounds. Closer "Daylight," by Steve Davis, is hard-driving Latin jazz, where everyone solos -- Turre takes his on the shells, the only place on the set they appear -- and guest Pedro Martinez plays congas bongos and campana; everyone pushes double time to send this one off on a way-up note. The Bones of Art might have been stilted or even gimmicky by a lesser musician, but in Turre's imagination and discipline, it becomes a welcome extension of the tradition; it's a reminder that there is still so much from the past that can -- and should -- inform the future. Dynamite!
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek