Canadian artist Brad Turner is a triple threat: a pianist, trumpeter and drummer, he has developed a significant reputation over the past eight years with artists including roots music specialists Zubot & Dawson, avant cellist Peggy Lee and the elastically-timed fusion group Metalwood. A two-time winner of the National Jazz Awards "Composer of the Year" as well as "Jazz Trumpeter of the Year," he has also won numerous Juno awards, the Canadian version of the Grammy.
For an artist to emerge in such a relatively short time and garner such critical acclaim would certainly suggest someone worth investigating. And while the piano trio featured on his latest release, Question the Answer , has been in existence for some seven years, this is its first recording and well worth the wait. Turner's first release under his own name featuring him strictly on piano, it demonstrates a player who is remarkably developed in conception, with influences from a variety of sources well-subsumed into a clearly personal style.
Think of what Monk would have been like had he been raised in Europe. Turner's style exhibits some of the same quirky eccentricities, especially on the set-opener "Lucie from Prague," which has its tongue planted firmly in cheek, but is tempered with a broader harmonic palette that brings to mind British pianist John Taylor. At the same time there is something distinctly contemporary about Turner's vision, placing him squarely in the same territory as the Bad Plus and E.S.T. His opening solo on "Me, Myself and I," rich with the harmonic density of Taylor, ultimately resolves into a light ostinato form that swings along softly yet insistently. Bassist Darren Radtke and drummer Bernie Arai provide a support system that supposes how the Bad Plus might sound if only they were more subtle and more refined.
Turner's compositions are often based around simple suppositions that reveal deeper levels of abstruseness. Iris' opening quote from "As Time Goes By" (the phrase "The fundamental things apply") is a seeming non-sequitur to the lyrical theme, which is couched in a more complex harmonic and rhythmic abstraction, with a tip of the hat to the kind of deeper challenges evident in the work of Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson. Based around a rhythmically demanding 5/4 ostinato, "Ideas" finds Turner at his most expressionistic, although he generally leans towards neither the introspective nor the more outgoing, usually resting somewhere in the middle.
Like Stenson, Turner finds ways of including non-original compositions like Ellington's "The Star Cross Lovers" while still retaining his own unique design; his lengthy rubato introduction provides a complexion that Duke would never have envisaged. And while the inclusion of a vocal track could break up the flow, Tia Turner's stark reading of Willie Nelson's "Crazy" makes perfect contextual sense.
Question the Answer is another milestone in a career which, while still only in its early stages, already demonstrates a clear conception and mature vision that makes one wonder where Turner will be in ten years' time.
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Track Listing: Lucie from Prague; Me, Myself and I; Iris; Ideas; There's No Telling Why; Question the Answer; The Star Crossed Lovers; Crazy; Penguins
Personnel: Brad Turner (piano), Darren Radtke (bass), Bernie Arai (drums), Tia Turner (vocals on "Crazy")