Stephen Johnson Turre (born 12 September 1948 Omaha, Nebraska) is an American jazz trombonist and a pioneer of using seashells as instruments, a composer, arranger, and educator at the collegiate-conservatory level. For fifty-six years, Turre has been active in jazz, rock, and Latin jazz – in live venues, recording studios, television, and cinema production.
Steve Turre performing in 2010
|Birth name||Stephen Johnson Turre|
|Born||September 12, 1948|
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Musician, arranger, educator|
|Instruments||Trombone, conch shells|
|Labels||Verve, Telarc, HighNote, Smoke Sessions|
|Associated acts||Sanctified Shells, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Carlos Santana, Ray Charles|
He has recorded over 20 albums as a bandleader, and appeared on many more as a contributor or sideman. As a studio musician, Turre is among the most prolific living jazz trombonists in the world. He has been a member of the Saturday Night Live Band since 1984.
Family and early life
Turre is one of five children born to James Boles Turre (1921–1997) and Carmen Marie (née Johnson). His father was of Italian ancestry and his mother was of Mexican ancestry. His three siblings are Michael James Turre (b. 1946), Suzanne Turre (born 1952), Michele Anita Turre (born 1953), and Peter Joseph Turre (born 1957). Michael and Peter are musicians – saxophone-woodwinds and drums, respectively.
Turre was raised in Lafayette, California (San Francisco Bay area). He began playing trombone at age ten, during his fourth grade in school. In his early teens, he played in a band with his elder brother, Michael. Although he entered California State University, Sacramento, on a football scholarship, he studied music theory there for two years before transferring to the University of North Texas College of Music, where he studied from 1968 to 1969 and played in a band led by trumpeter Hannibal Peterson.
Turre has been a resident of Montclair, New Jersey.
Turre has been married twice. His first wife was Susan J. Beard, whom he married in 1970 in Dallas, Texas, and divorced in 1972 in San Francisco. His second wife was cellist Akua Dixon (born 1948) from 1978 to 2012, with whom he had two children, a singer and a drummer.
In 1968, Turre played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk. In 1970 he recorded with Carlos Santana, and in 1972 he toured with Ray Charles. He has been trombonist for the Saturday Night Live band since 1985 and has taught jazz trombone at the Manhattan School of Music since 1988.
For forty-nine years (since 1970), Turre has been an exponent of seashells – conch in particular – as serious musical instruments. According to Turre, encouragement came from Kirk who was known for using a vast array of saxophones, flutes and other instruments. Turre has a collection of shells of various sizes, most of them picked up during his travels in the Caribbean and elsewhere. The shells have their mouthpieces carefully cut and are tuned to specific pitches. When playing them as a soloist, he frequently switches between shells, as each is limited in its register (the smallest shells, for example, have a practical register of only a fifth). His largest shell, from the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, has a range between the D and E below middle C, and was painted by a Cuban artist. He also leads "Sanctified Shells," which is a "shell choir" made up of brass players who double on seashell (using shells from Turre's collection, which he loans out for rehearsals and performances). The group released its first, eponymous album in 1993. Turre has had a long experience with Latin jazz and is a skilled player of the cowbell and Venezuelan maracas.
Turre has been a member of the Juilliard School faculty for thirteen years – since 2008, and previously from 2001 to 2003.
Awards and honors
- Best Trombonist, Down Beat Readers' Poll, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006
- Biography Index, H.W. Wilson Co.; ISSN 0006-3053
Vol. 13: Sep. 1982–Aug. 1984 (1984); OCLC 31441138
Vol. 15: Sep. 1986–Aug. 1988 (1988); OCLC 30326307
Vol. 19: Sep. 1993–Aug. 1994 (1994); OCLC 31703875
Vol. 23: Sep. 1997–Aug. 1998 (1998)
Vol. 26: Sep. 2000–Aug. 2001 (2001)
Vol. 27: Sep. 2001–Aug. 2002 (2002); OCLC 51500525
Vol. 29: Sep. 2003–Aug. 2004 (2004)
Vol. 30: Sep. 2004–Aug. 2005 (2005)
- Current Biography Yearbook, 2001 edition, New York: H. W. Wilson Co. (2001); OCLC 49208926
- Tom Lord, The Jazz Discography Online, Tom Lord (ed.), Lord Music (retrieved February 20, 2014); OCLC 182585494, 690104143
- Biographical Dictionary of Jazz, by Charles Eugene Claghorn (1911–2005), Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (1982); OCLC 8626853
- The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies, by Leonard Feather & Ira Gitler, New York: Horizon Press (1976); OCLC 2698149
- Jazz Profiles. The spirit of the nineties, by Reginald Carver and Lenny Bernstein, New York: Billboard Books (1998); OCLC 39391196
- Gary L. Firstenberg (born 1957), "Steve Turre: Still Searchin'", All About Jazz
- "SAC Alumni Are Going Places: Steve Turre", Archived October 24, 2014, at the Wayback Machine SAC State Magazine, (Sacramento State University) (Spring 2012) pg. 8; OCLC 123129729
- Wirt, George. "Steve Turre: a lifelong love affair with the trombone", The Montclair Times, January 13, 2011, backed up by the Internet Archive as of January 16, 2011. Accessed September 18, 2017. "An active supporter of jazz education, Montclair trombonist Steve Turre (second from left), is shown above, with Montclair musicians, from left, vocalist Melissa Walker, drummer Billy Hart, and saxophonists Bruce Williams and Mike Lee as they take a break during their performance at the Jazz House Kids Bebop-a-Que, a fundraiser for the Jazz House Kids educational programs."
- "The State of Jazz: Meet 40 More Jersey Greats", The Star-Ledger, September 28, 2003, backed up by the Internet Archive as of September 27, 2008. Accessed September 15, 2017. "Steve Turre -- A versatile, inventive trombonist, shell player and composer, Turre lives in Montclair with wife, the cellist Akua Dixon."
- Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras, by Dorothy Antoinette Handy (née Miller; 1929–2002), Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press (1981); OCLC 6555037, 251785411, 833330629
- In Black and White – A Guide to Magazine Articles, Newspaper Articles, and Books Concerning Black Individuals and Groups, Third edition, Supplement, Mary Elizabeth Mace Spradling (1911–2009) (ed.), Detroit: Gale Research (1985); OCLC 12286145
- "Steve Turre: l’homme à la conque" ("The Man With the Conch"), by Romain Grosman, Paris: Jazz hot, No. 538, pg. 21 (March 1997); ISSN 0021-5643
- "Steve Turre Sounds the Trumpet: Ah, Make that Trombone and Conch," by Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe January 19, 1993; ISSN 0743-1791
- All Music Guide to Jazz
2nd ed., Michael Erlewine (ed.); OCLC 35201244
4th ed., Vladimir Bogdanov, Christopher J. Woodstra (born 1969), Stephen Thomas Erlewine (eds.) (1996); OCLC 50477109
- The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Barry Dean Kernfeld, Stanley Sadie
1st ed. (1988); OCLC 16804283
3rd imprent of 1st ed. (1994); OCLC 30516743
2nd ed. (2002); OCLC 46956628
- Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (Turre is in Vol. 6 of 6), Macmillan; Schirmer
9th ed, Laura Diane Kuhn (ed.) (born 1953) (2001); OCLC 44972043
- "An Interview with Steve Turre," by Bob Bernotas (né Robert W. Bernotas; born 1955), Online Trombone Journal, 1994