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MUSICIAN Born:

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

Excerts from Ira Gitler's liner notes for up coming release "THE ITALIAN JOB" from MIKE TURK In the May issue of Jazz Improv NY (before it morphed into Jazz Inside NY) I wrote about Mike Turk’s The Nature of Things, naming it CD of the month and recognizing Turk as “someone who has flown under my radar—and apparently a lot of other people’s, except perhaps in his home city of Boston...Mike Turk makes the harmonica sing and swing like a masterful saxophonist...” I was also taken by his choice of material that included songs by Jimmy Raney, Elmo Hope, Johnny Mandel and Irv Rochlin that don’t show up that often, and material from Ellington, Gillespie and one of his own. It isn’t every day, especially these days that the real deal comes along seemingly out of the blue.

Jazz Singer/Songwriters Part I: Louise Van Aarsen and Rebecka Larsdotter

Read "Jazz Singer/Songwriters Part I: Louise Van Aarsen and Rebecka Larsdotter" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

We can only hear “My Funny Valentine" so many times presented in so many manners. Writer Scott Yanow, in his book The Jazz Singers: The Ultimate Guide (Backbeat Books, 2008), called for a moratorium on singers recording this and several other songs because, like “Stairway to Heaven" and “Freebird" (for those from behind the Cotton Curtain), ...

The Italian Job

Label: Self Produced
Released: 2011
Track listing: 1.Neptune; 2.Old Man River; 3.Callisto; 4.Pavane; 5.Manoir de mes reves; 6.Conception; 7.Funk in Deep Freeze; 8.You’re Mine, You; 9.Maxwell Street; 10.All My Tomorrows.

ARTICLE: ALBUM REVIEWS

Mike Turk: The Italian Job

Read "The Italian Job" reviewed by AAJ Italy Staff

Al centro delle dieci tracce contenute in The Italian Job c'è quasi esclusivamente l'armonica di Mike Turk, leader di un album in cui si avvale della collaborazione di un quartetto di musicisti italiani dalle ottime credenziali. Quasi, perché in primo piano sa muoversi anche il vibrafonista Alessandro Di Puccio, che riesce a dialogare in ...


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