For those who can't make it to the Jazz Baroness Room, Monkfish now streams live all of its performances on their Facebook page. Dinner reservations are recommended. Please specify that you want a table in the Jazz Baroness Room.
Mike Turk, chromatic harmonica
Alexei Tsiganov, piano
Barry Smith, acoustic bass
American born, Mike began playing harmonica in 1967 at age 14. Mike’s father, Dick Richards –member local 802 AFM in NYC, was a busy, working Jazz bassist and vocalist from 1940’s to 1970’s. Despite all that, Mike first found the harmonica and gravitated to the sounds of Chicago Blues music, Rhythm & Blues and even the Folk Blues that was surging from the depths of New York’s Greenwich Village night clubs at that time.
In the 1960’s, Mike was profoundly influenced by the playing of Paul Butterfield, Junior Wells, James Cotton and Little Walter Jacobs.
By the early 1970’s Mike developed his technique on the “blues” or diatonic harmonica and found his way to Boston where he soon became a local figure in the vibrant music scene that was happening there. Turk performed or “sat in” with performers such as Bonnie Raitt, Lowel Fulsom, Hound Dog Taylor, Charlie Musselwhite Band and even Dave Van Ronk and Steve Goodman.
Eventually, Turk landed in the prominent New England Country & Western band of John Lincoln Wright & The Sourmash Boys.
It was this period, in the mid 1970’s that Turk began to explore the possibilities of the chromatic or “Jazz”harmonica.
He left Wright’s Western Swing band after about 1 year, after which, he spent the period from 1978 –1980 at the Berklee College of Music. This, then, afforded Mike the “tools” so to speak to understanding the technique and musical approach of the great jazz phenomenon Jean “Toots” Thielemans.
Although Toots Thielemans was a European, Belgian born, the fire in his playing comes from the profound influences and inspirations of the great American Jazz players such as Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and Zoot Sims. Toots’ early albums are American productions accompanied by some of the heaviest Jazz & Bebop players at that time.…” I’ll always think of the music on Thielemans” Columbia and Riverside recordings as amazing American Jazz experiences!” Turk remarks….As Tony Mowad, the well known Pittsburgh jazz radio host and journalist often emphasized,… “ Jazz is the gift that America gave to the world”.
With all this in mind Turk began to formulate his ideas on the Harmonica with an almost purely “American” approach using the technique established by Toots Thielemans. Eventually, Turk’s influences would come from a virtual textbook of Bebop and Modern Jazz written by the likes of Charlie Parker, Sonny Stiit, Dizzy Gillespie, Dextor Gordon, Cannonball Adderly, Lee Morgan, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery, Milt Jackson, Bill Evans, Lucky Thompson, Hank Mobley…many more, East Coast Bop & West Coast Cool!
In the 1980’s & 1990’s Turk remained in Boston as a working Jazz harmonica musician performing in concerts, clubs and as an “on call” studio musician. Turk traveled to New York City during this period to work on various TV & Radio commercial soundtracks ( see Anthology CD)
In the 1990’s Turk performed and collaborated with great Boston players such as Gray Sargent and Marshall Wood (both presently with Tony Bennett) and had the great honor to play with Dave McKenna from time to time. Other somewhat unsung, top-notch Boston players include Jeff Stout, Dick Johnson, Jon Wheatley, Lou Columbo, Ray Santisi, Paul Schmelling, Paul Broadnax, John Lockwood, Bob Guilloti, the great jazz drummers Joe Hunt and also Alan Dawson…..many more great players not mentioned here!
In Recent years, Turk had the great pleasure of sharing the Scullers Jazz Club concert stage with jazz vocalist Rebecca Parris and her band consisting of Brad Hatfield, Peter Kontrimus and Jim Lattini.