Born: July 28, 1951 Primary Instrument: Harmonica
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.