Having hustled his way onto over two dozen Blue Note recording sessions in just five years as a leader or sideman prior to this release, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine’s presence was increasingly getting on the nerves of Blue Note boss Alfred Lion, who was known to lock himself in his office to avoid the perpetually broke musician’s interminable pestering. It may be a coincidence but the fact is that Lion’s career with Blue Note Records, the company he co-founded in 1939, came to an end soon after a Turrentine date. He hurriedly moved to Mexico with his wife Ruth and stayed there for several years.
Turrentine had also previously appeared on a handful of albums led by his wife, organist Shirley Scott, for Prestige Records. Hustlin’ is their fourth Blue Note collaboration. Much like the striking cover design by Reid Miles, the record itself is a great example of efficiency of means. Expertly captured by legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder, there is tremendous cohesion among the players, each contributing a relaxed component that achieves seamless overall unity. Turrentine is known for his thick, purring sound and a style steeped in blues and R&B. Wedded to Scott’s soulful handling of her Hammond B3 and accompanied here by the sinuous guitar of Kenny Burrell, all harnessed by the understated rhythm section of bassist Bob Cranshaw and Otis Finch on drums, each tune on this LP is a solid excursion into deep soul-jazz terrain. From the crisp opener ‘Trouble No. 2’ which is full of sax leaps and gospel-organ highlights, on to the honeydripping ‘Love Letters’ with a sumptuous Turrentine solo, followed by Kenny Burrell’s star turn on the swinging ‘The Hustler’ where he plays very much like Wes Montgomery, the call and response between sax and guitar on the 6/8 ‘Ladyfingers’ featuring a tasty solo by Scott, through to the very laid-back ‘Something Happens To Me’ and ‘Goin’ Home’ (adapted from Dvorák’s Symphony No.9) which closes the album, this proves to be a very satisfying set from Turrentine. With excellent support by Shirley Scott and Kenny Burrell, Hustlin’ is as good as anything Stanley Turrentine released for Blue Note in the 1960’s.