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Mark Turner: Grounded in a Spiritual World

Kurt Rosenwinkel By

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One of the most special things about Mark is the absolute egolessness of his involvement with music. He can do anything he wants on the saxophone; his abilities are completely unlimited. But he never has any particular agenda; he's just responding to the music at that moment, and his concern is with shaping the whole performance or song. So that results in a few things: it results in patience, and taste, and maturity, and empathy and graciousness and grace and blending and making and generosity. And then, in those moments where it's needed, because of the same reasons, he might just absolutely tear the roof off. And he can do that because of that natural, stable place from which he's coming. He's always a very grounded presence.

Mark is one of the most dedicated people I've ever met, both musically and in terms of his personal, spiritual journey in this life. He's very methodical. He's very patient. I remember when he almost cut off his hand with the electric saw: everybody was in shock—except for him! And the first time I talked to him after that, he was like, "Yeah, you know, I've had a pretty good run. It's okay." He had already accepted, and was already okay with, the prospect that he'd never play again. To me, that really illustrates where he's grounded. He's not grounded in this world; he's grounded in a deeper—not deeper, but larger—spiritual world. He's able to let go of any worldly things because he knows that his true root and home is in this larger, spiritual, cosmic world.

And another little anecdote about him that's really funny is: Because of where he's coming from, nothing around him really bothers him. And when we started to play internationally in concert halls, I remember many times, we'd be playing and he would take a solo and then I'd be taking a solo and then I would look to cue the melody out —and he wouldn't be there! And I'd turn around and he'd be behind us, on the floor, doing yoga! And I'd look at him and I'd be like raising my eyebrows like, "Here we go! It's coming around!" and he'd give me this look—like a thousand-mile stare. Actually, it was more of a complete, unaffected, no expression, just looking at me like—blank. And it always made me laugh. 'Cause you always knew he would be there—he'd just be nailing it. That was funny, 'cause that happened all the time, he was always doing that. It made me love him a little bit more each time.

Photo credit: Per Kreuger

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