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Interviews

Steve Turre: Still Searchin'

By Published: August 21, 2006
AAJ: Any great artists, living or dead, you would like to have had the chance to play with, but didn't?

ST: Miles Davis, one of the great jazz innovators. I met him once, but did not get the chance to perform with him. Sonny Rollins is one of our living national treasures. It would be an honor to perform a song with him.

AAJ: You come from a musical family, don't you?

ST: I have two brothers, and two sisters. My brothers play music—Mike lives in California, he's a saxophonist. Peter was Ray Charles' drummer for many years; right now, he's living in a FEMA trailer next to his house in New Orleans. The levees broke after Katrina, and his home took in about six feet of water on the lower level. He evacuated to Tennessee for awhile, but now he's rebuilding. Unfortunately, he lost of lot of his music equipment and musical memories, but he's a survivor, and will land on his feet.

My wife of twenty-seven years, Akua Dixon, is an extraordinary musician, arranger, and music teacher. I met her at a place called Ali's Alley, in the Village. Believe it or not, I was playing bass with Chico Hamilton's band; his bassist was sick, and I filled in for awhile. I didn't want to stick with the bass, though, I was more interested in the brass. Akua was a Broadway show musician when I met her. We ended up living together for about a year before I popped the question. The late Hilton Ruiz was the best man at our wedding.

AAJ: It's a tragic shame about his death recently in New Orleans.

ST: Yes, such a great talent. Hopefully, some people will come forward with the truth, so that the people who beat him up will be arrested. I recently wrote a song in tribute to Hilton Ruiz. We played in Roland Kirk's band together.

AAJ: Does Akua play on your projects?

ST: Yes, she plays on three songs on my upcoming CD. And she has worked with me on numerous past projects. She has a group called Quartette Indigo, which balances jazz and classical sounds. She owns a cello which will be 200 years old this year. It's a fragile and beautiful instrument.

AAJ: Children?

ST: Two kids—my daughter is Andromeda, and she sings and composes music. She was the last Raelette hired in Ray Charles' band. And my son is Orion.

AAJ: Interesting names.

ST: Yes—the next galaxy and the brightest constellation. and I have a miniature greyhound named Jazz.

AAJ: You performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this year with a young trombonist named Troy Andrews. Do you think that city will make a cultural comeback?

ST: I toured some devastated areas, and it's unreal how much damage there is. It will take a massive undertaking to rebuild this city. I think the culture will remain intact, but it will not be easy for many of the musicians from that city to survive. One can only hope the politicians are truly determined to help the city. I am a bit skeptical.

AAJ: You have said that nature plays an important role in your music. How so?

ST: I am very moved by the natural beauty in the world, and it weaves its way into my music> One of my hobbies is tending the garden, and I don't mind getting my hands dirty with soil, it's organic.

AAJ: What do you hope your music does for people?

ST: I hope my music can bring people to a higher level of peace and serenity. The sensationalism of TV projects a negative force—many political leaders are selfish. I want my music to provide an escape from harsh realities. If it makes you dance, that's great.

AAJ: How would you like to be remembered?

ST: That's not for me to decide.

AAJ: Any regrets in your musical journey?

ST: Not really. I once got an "F" in jazz improvisation when I was in school, but I quickly got over it. This was at the school in Denton, Texas. There was a bit of a racial problem with the curriculum. They had a Stan Kenton library, but no Louis Armstrong. You could learn about Phil Woods and Chet Baker, but not Billie Holiday. I finished my musical education in Massachusetts, where the teaching was more well-rounded., and the roots of the music were part of the study program. I had one scary moment, but it turned out okay.

AAJ: What was that?

ST: In 1978, I was in Harlem, I lived there. It was pretty dangerous back then. I was walking home from a gig, with my trombone case in hand. There was a riot going on in the streets, and a cop chased me. He put a gun to my head, and said I was stealing. He could've shot me right then and there, and that would be all, luckily, he let me go. The next day I decided to move, and ended up in Montclair. So, it turned out well.

AAJ: Let's finish this interview with a discussion of your new album. Tell me about it.

ST: The street date for Keep Searchin' is September 26th. I wrote some of the material, and some of the songs are standards with my arrangements. The band is great. We rehearsed for two days, and recorded it at Rudy Van Gelder's studio. We did ten tunes in six hours.

AAJ: Who comprises the band?

Steve TurreST: I play trombone and some shells, Stefon Harris is on vibes, and he is an essential part of the overall tone of the recording. Trombone and vibes is not necessarily a natural combination, but I think it works beautifully. We have Xavier Davis on drums, Gerald Cannon and Peter Washington playing bass, and Dion Parson on the drums. Akua Dixon plays a rare instrument. It is a baritone violin she purchased from a woman who custom-made it in 1967. Her name is Carleen Maley Hutchins, and she is a luthier, someone who builds instruments. Some of her work is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is now in her 90's, and living in Massachusetts. Anyway, Akua plays beautifully on the CD. She solos on two songs, and plays a notated part on another song.



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