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Interviews

Steve Turre: Shell 'n' 'Bone Man

By Published: February 23, 2009

AAJ: Why do you think Miles didn't use any other trombonists after J.J.?

ST:Well, 'cause they weren't on the level; the level was way up there, man. And then it wasn't a popular sound either—that trumpet/saxophone sound that became a kind of standard sound. J.J. could hang with that, but a lot of trombone players just couldn't do that with the sound.



Miles had a beautiful sound, a big sound, and a lot of the trombone players who played fast would what I call 'eat the mic'—they don't have a real sound. You know, if you took the mic away it'd be like pantomime—they'd be moving, but you wouldn't hear nothin.' But J.J., he had a sound like an orchestral trombone player—really, really resonant, and it blended perfectly with Miles, you know.



So it's about the blend. Did you happen to notice that in all Miles' bands, the horns had a blend? Me and Woody Shaw, we had a real special blend; it was uncanny. The first time we played together it just clicked. And that blend's a real lost art, it seems like, today.

Steve Turre I also wish I could have played with Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong. I was asked to play with Count Basie

Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
but I had to turn it down because I had other commitments I just couldn't get out of. This was when Count was alive, this ain't the ghost band, this was the real deal. Charlie Parker and Coltrane too, those cats were ridiculous! After all these years listening to their records, they still blow my mind.



I played with all my favorite drummers—Art Blakey

Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
Elvin Jones, Papa Jo Jones
Jo Jones
Jo Jones
1911 - 1985
drums
and Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones
Philly Joe Jones
1923 - 1985
drums
and Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
Jack DeJohnette
b.1942
drums
. And bass players too—Ray Brown
Ray Brown
Ray Brown
1926 - 2002
bass, acoustic
; I played a few times with Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
and Buster Williams
Buster Williams
Buster Williams
b.1942
bass
.



I enjoyed Mingus' compositions but I didn't want to work in his band—not that I was asked, but the guys in Mingus' band told me to come and sit in with them, saying he'd probably give me the gig because Mingus loved trombone. But when I went over there and I saw the way he was treating people, and how nasty he was to the musicians, I didn't sit in because I like to be in a band where everybody is treated like family and there's a lot of love going on.



But Mingus had this thing where he felt that musicians played better when they were mad and he would do stuff to try and agitate everybody and piss people off and I didn't like that energy. He was a bully. If you let him, he would treat you nasty and I don't like people coming from that place. You know, Duke treated everybody with respect; Dizzy too.

AAJ: Do you have any advice for young musicians, or for people thinking about taking up an instrument?

ST: I just wanna say to the young musicians that they should realize that music is deeper than just being different. You do wanna be creative, but you create by being yourself and therefore it becomes healing. A musician is like a doctor—you wanna heal people, you wanna make people feel better.



The feeling of the music is more important than the idea. The rhythm of the music is more important than the notes, and rhythm and the feeling of the music has the vibration of the earth and that's what heals people because nature is steady rhythms—the day, the night, the years, the seasons.



When you're in tune with mother earth, the music becomes healing. When it is just an intellectual exercise, it becomes mathematics—yeah, it's interesting but you lose mother earth, you lose the healing thing, and there's a responsibility in this music to have that African root.



Do you wanna do music just to be famous or do you wanna do something real of lasting value and help make the planet a better place for all humanity? Look at how Duke Ellington brought so many people together at a time when America was truly divided. We have a black President now, but at one time it was Ku Klux Klan and lynchings, and even during that time Duke would give a concert and white people and black people, everybody would come together to hear this wonderful music. That's deep. The music put energy in the air that made people forget all their bullshit and feel the love.

Selected Discography

Steve Turré, Rainbow People (HighNote, 2008)
Steve Turré, Keep Searchin' (HighNote, 2006)
Steve Turré, The Spirits Up Above (HighNote, 2004)
Steve Turré, One4J: Paying Homage to J.J. Johnson (Telarc, 2003)
Steve Turré, TNT Trombone-N-Tenor (Telarc, 2001)
Ray Barretto, Portraits in Jazz and Clave (RCA, 2000)
Steve Turré, In the Spur of the Moment (Telarc, 2000)
Steve Turré, Lotus Flower (Polygram, 1999)
McCoy Tyner, McCoy Tyner and the Latin All-Stars (Telarc, 1999)
Tito Puente, Fifty Years of Swing (Rmm Records, 1997)
J.J. Johnson, Brass Orchestra (Polygram, 1997)
Horace Silver, The Hard bop Grandpop (GRP Records, 1996)
Steve Turré, Rhythm Within (Polygram, 1995)
Steve Turré, Sanctified Shells (Polygram, 1993)
Steve Turré, Right There (Polygram, 1991)
Lester Bowie, Serious Fun (DIW, 1989)
Steve Turré, Viewpoints and Vibrations (Stash, 1987)
Hilton Ruiz Ensemble, Something Grand (Novus, 1986)
Woody Shaw, For Sure (Columbia, 1980)
Jerry Gonzalez, Ya Yo Me Cure (Sunnyside, 1979)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Boogie-Woogie String Along for Real (Warner Bros., 1978)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Kirkatron (Warner Bros., 1977)
Art Blakey and the Jazz Mesengers, Anthenagin (Prestige, 1973)
Santana, Caravanserai (Sony, 1972)



Photo Credits

Top & Bottom Photos: NoVARon

Turré Playing Conches (horizontal) and playing trombone (horizontal): Mark Sheldon

Turré Playing Trombone (vertical): Vladimir Korobitsyn



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