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Demetrius "DJ" Turner II: Hope For The Future

By Published: June 17, 2008
Nevertheless, Turner's impressive performance at the Obama rally resulted in a subsequent performance by Turner and his band, Jumpin' Off A Clef, at a Barack Obama fundraiser in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Jumpin' Off A Clef also features Ben Sutin (fifteen) on electric violin and keyboards, Justin Faulkner (sixteen) on drums, James Santangelo, Jr. (sixteen) on keyboards, and Erik Kramer (seventeen) on bass. "We play together in Philadelphia, New Jersey, pretty much all over," Turner says, "and sometimes we arrange songs together, try to make new songs together. [W]e just play together, jam together, try to think of new ideas, to feed off each other."

The members of Jumpin Off a Clef met at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts. It was there that Turner's playing really started to take off, after he began taking lessons from Lovett Hines and Ray Wright, both top music educators in the Philadelphia area.

Regarding his practice regimen, Turner explains, "I practice mostly everyday. I practice for about two to three hours. And I try to get a focused practice in every time. I play saxophone and flute, so I have to give enough time to my saxophone, my flute, and my piano, too." Learning the piano, he says, has helped him immeasurably with learning chord changes and in composing new songs. "Ray Wright taught me that I have to have a 'thoughtful practice.' [Y]ou don't just practice songs all day, you have to practice your scales, breathing technique, styles of improvising...basically practice with a purpose."

Demetrius 'DJ' Turner II

Asked about which musicians had been most influential in his music, Turner quickly responded "[M]y grandfather. I take a lot of influence from him. And my teacher, Ray Wright, who's really into jazz." Also mentioned were Philadelphia vibes player Richard Adderly, and Philly saxophonists Sam Reed and Odean Pope (Pope was saxophonist with the Max Roach Quartet and Double Quartet for 23 years). "I've played with Odean Pope. He's a great jazz musician. And he's helped me a lot. He's given me some ideas to play. And I heard Herbie Hancock and I met him, and he talked to me a little bit. And I also met Kenny Garrett."

Of course, Turner is also influenced by the music he hears. "I listen to a lot of jazz albums," he says. "I don't know if I can say I have a favorite. I listen to jazz fusion, some smooth jazz, free jazz, all sorts of stuff. Most of my CDs are saxophone and flute players. That's what I listen to a lot of times, especially before a gig. I try to gain some ideas from the players I'm listening to, right before a gig. I hope that helps me in my performance. Yeah, I use licks from Charlie Parker, from David Sanborn and Kenny Garrett. And, well, I use licks from a whole lot of people like Najee and Gerald Albright."

Although Turner stays very busy with school, practicing, and performing, he still finds time to give back to his community and to the jazz world in general. Turner and his family formed the Vewiser Turner Sr. Youth Jazz Educational Foundation, named for Turner's grandfather, to help introduce the youngest members of our society to the jazz art form.

"I go to daycare centers, youth groups, etc., and play for the children," Turner explains. "And sometimes we bring a recorder [instrument] and let them play on that, and try to experience it. Sometimes we bring drums and let them keep beats. I've seen kids' expressions on their faces, and it seemed like they loved it. And it seemed like something they'd want to do too. So I think it's pretty successful. I'm hoping that through my foundation and bringing jazz to kids, I can help jazz become more popular again in the U.S. Every musician has to do their part to keep this music alive."

Turner is certainly doing his part. And, hopefully he is the prototype for a whole new generation of jazz performers. The jazz world desperately needs young jazz musicians like Demetrius "DJ" Turner II—performers who not only possess exceptional musical talent, but who also take personal responsibility for making an impact on the future of jazz.

Photo Credits
Top Two Photos: Noah Turner, Vewiser Turner Sr. Youth Jazz Educational Foundation
Bottom Photo: Eric Mencher, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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