Steve Turre | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Steve Turre cuts a distinctive figure, both physically--he's the trombonist with the pigtail and Fu Manchu mustache you've seen since the mid-80s in the Saturday Night Live band--and musically. Since starting his career playing with such individualistic musical forces as Lester Bowie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, he's worked with an improvising string quartet (inspired by his wife, cellist Akua Dixon); made distinctive use of Afro-Caribbean rhythms and instruments; and gained extra attention by playing conch shells, which yield a uniquely organic sound, sort of like a furry trumpet. (Turre blows on the small end of a shell and inserts his free hand into the large opening to change the length of the air column, and thus the pitch.) But despite his well-earned reputation for iconoclasm, Turre has always honored his own roots and the jazz tradition, particularly in his solo style--a potent, blustery voice that balances sure technique with his instrument's time-honored emotionalism. In the last few years Turre has emphasized the historical aspect of his musicianship, a process culminating in this year's One 4 J (Telarc), his tribute to the patron saint of modern trombonists, J.J. Johnson. Turre went all out, inviting six other trombonists to take part, including arguably the two best current players, Robin Eubanks and Steve Davis; on his current tour, which features music from that album, Turre hooks up with Davis to re-create the two-'bone quintet format that brought widespread fame to Johnson and Kai Winding (J & K) in the 50s and 60s. Davis plays with a cleaner sound than Turre and a more compact swing--he melds the techniques of Johnson and Winding into a single style--that contrasts handsomely with Turre's more extroverted excursions. Tuesday through Thursday, June 10 through 12, 8 and 10 PM, Friday and Saturday, June 13 and 14, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, June 15, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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