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Mike Turk

Review : Mike Turk's "Turk's Works"
Date: February, 2002
Reviewer: Bob Blumenthal, Boston Phoenix

"At the risk of making Mike Turk's conception sound easily won, which it was not, or his music lazy, which it most definitely is not, I can't help noting at the outset how effortless this collection sounds. Perhaps the harmonica just conjures images of huffing and puffing, or the ingenious tribute to Dizzy Gillespie on "Lover" / "Diggin' for Diz" created expectations of pyrotechnics. What we get, though, is music where the ideas and the swing are unforced, where everything flows with such assurance that one forgets that Turk plays one of the jazz world's miscellaneous instruments and simply hears his harmonica as a lead voice, comfortable and in-place as the more familiar trumpet or sax.

Turk, who admits to having listened to Gillespie for years, without "really trying to get into Dizzy's thing" traces his own approach to two specific individuals. "You hear a deep connection in my music to Toots Thielemans and to Lester Young. Phrasing is a matter of how you think, and of not playing everything you know all at once. I've heard this said numerous times from every legendary horn player who is asked....It's a Dexter [Gordon] thing, and Dexter was a Lester Young guy. I just try to lay back like Lester and play some nice lines." "I think of Lester when I hear many of these tunes," Turk continues, "including "Prey Loot," because Lucky (Thompson) comes out of Lester, too; and "Nobody Else But Me," which I heard recorded by Stan Getz, another deep Lester guy."

This emphasis on the Lester Young school of saxophone players does not diminish Turk's appreciation for the reigning harmonica voice in modern jazz. "Toots Thielemans is the guy who showed me where I could come in, where the harmonica fits as a jazz instrument," he declares, "and I like the way he just comes out and makes a statement musically, rather than having to prove what he can do in each solo..."

One can imagine the obstacles that confront a harmonica player determined to play jazz; but one does not hear those obstacles reflected in Mike Turk's music. On the contrary, the mood here is comfortable. like those soft shoes Turk's idol Lester Young preferred. And like those shoes, Turk's Works can't help but make you feel better when you slip it on."

-Bob Blumenthal

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"Mike Turk has applied the language of the saxophone to the harmonica in a very impressive fashion . . . it amazes me." Jerry Bergonzi

". . . It's not surprising to learn that Mike Turk was originally a blues player and started using chromatic harmonica only afterwards, for the blues is there in every note. His style owes a lot to Toots Thielemans, but it's more sober, also more joyful. This album swings from beginning to end . . ." LeJazz Magazine,

"Mike Turk is a no-nonsense musician and the harmonica is his life. [He is] one of a rare breed who started out with the blues harp and went on to get an enviable technique on the chromatic. His home base is bebop with a healthy swinging approach. He shows familiarity with some interesting melodic scales. [He makes] a harmonica statement that should reach out beyond the harmonica audience. . .Turk is a fiery player. . . . came out of the bluesharp and assimilated the chromatic quite fluently. . . . knows his changes and aims for swing! . . . !" Toots Thielemans

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Primary Instrument




Willing to teach

Intermediate to advanced


Berklee College Of Music 1999-2005 Privately 20 years hour Chromatic /diatonic Jazz, Blues, other styles

Clinic/Workshop Information

jazz ensemble clinics

diatonic & chromatic harmonica clinics

presented seminars at SPAH and Harmonica Summit 2000. Clinics at Berklee College, Amarillo, Texas

"From Blues to Jazz" - transitioning from diatonic to chromatic harmonica, understanding chord scales and 'key' tonality positions 2009 - Presented at Boston Museum Of Fine Arts - Musical Instrument Gallery


Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Lavana Recordings


The Italian Job

Self Produced


The Nature Of Things

Tin Sandwich Music




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