Trombone Magic in the Big Apple - Jazzgram
by Emilie Pons - September 2009
Trombone player Steve Turre performed May 28-31 at the Jazz Standard in New York with his sextet: Xavier Davis on piano, Ray Drummond on bass, Ron Blake on saxophone, Ignacio Berroa on drums, Abdou Mboup, a brilliant Senegalese musician, on percussion, and the young Christian Scott on trumpet. Turre pointed out that one will hear about Scott, that he is this young trumpet player from a country of its own, New Orleans.
Ron Blake hails from St. Thomas, in the Caribbean, while Davis is from Michigan. Pianists Wynton Kelly (who played with John Coltrane) and Mulgrew Miller are his main influences. The charismatic Berroa was introduced by Turre as a musician who has played with the very famous American trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie. The intensity with which Berroa plays astonishes: he seems to breathe rhythms. He is extremely focused and his skills can be heard. Ray Drummond is called "The Bulldog" after a character from British novels written by Sapper, which were popular after Word War I. Many of these novels were adapted to the screen in the '30s and 40's and these movies became part of American pop culture in the '50s (both on TV and radio).
On Friday evening the club was packed. The musicians followed pianist Jason Moran, who had just performed on Tuesday and Wednesday. The acoustic of the Jazz Standard, the atmosphere, and the food guarantee a good time. An epicure, Turre swears that out of all the New York jazz clubs, the Jazz Standard has the best food. On Sunday evening, for the very last set of this sextet, the club was not as crowded, but the music was just as good. Among the tunes Turre featured were one of his compositions entitled "Woody and Bu" and dedicated to legendary drummer Art Blakey (Abdullah Ibn Buhaina) as well as "Woody's Delight." Turre mentioned that he learned a lot with trumpet player Woody Shaw. "Woody's Delight" is a fast-tempo and upbeat piece with a boundless energy. Turre is an impressive leader. He worked with teachers such as Rogers Shoemaker or Phil Wilson and his major influences are jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk (who was famous for his ability to play several reed instruments at the same time) and Latin jazz percussionist Manny Oquendo. "With Steve it is intense," confided Davis during a break.
Mboup is a nice addition to the band. His solos were original and added a sort of freshness and perhaps clarity to the music. And of course, Steve Turre played the conch shells. At the very end of both Friday's and Sunday's sets, he decided to play one, and then two shells at once. The sounds he created were unique and beautiful. On Sunday evening, he and Christian Scott were responding to one another. Turre seemed to be melodically barking in his shells. These effects sounded authentic and quite surprising.
The concerts were marvelous: not only did Turre gather musicians from different parts of the world, and with different sensibilities; he also knew how to alternate uptempo songs with slower songs. "The most difficult thing is when we have to play three sets in a row," said Davis. Indeed, the musicians managed to play with the same intensity four nights in a row, and, for the first three nights, three sets in a row.
Russ Musto, a major specialist and aficionado of the New York jazz scene whom all musicians know and appreciate for his listening skills and his knowledge of the field and the music, was in the club on Sunday evening, near the bar, sipping every magical note of the last set.
It was, overall, a very special musical experience.