At 70, Steve Turre’ is still making jazz come alive–his way. An award-winning innovator, trombonist and seashellist, he was born to born to Mexican-American parents. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay area surrounded by mariachi, blues and jazz. Turre’ and the Eulipeon All Stars celebrate the music of Rahsaan Roland Kirk on February 24 at the Biamp PDX Jazz Festival.
What is the one word that describes how you feel when you’re performing?
Focused. I try to focus when I’m playing, so that I’m not thinking, not mentally trying to be intellectual. My mind is a blank, like a meditation, and I let the music come through me. I’m listening to the other musicians and I become a part of the total sound, like a flock of birds flying together and all turn at the same time.
Were you born with jazz in your soul or did you acquire it?
You are attracted to things that make you tick. My mom and dad met at a Count Basie dance. That was their music: big band music. So I heard that. They also liked Louis Armstrong and traditional jazz. They didn’t really get into bebop. So obviously I listened to jazz a lot, mostly people who came before me and people that are doing it today.
If you could go back in time and play in any jazz era, what would that be?
[Laughs] I don’t have an answer, because I’ve lived through a lot of great eras, even though with part of it, I wasn’t old enough to participate. But I’ve still played with those people who were; for example, I never got to see Charlie Parker, but I played with Dizzy, Max Roach, Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Roy Haynes. I didn’t play with Thelonious Monk, but I did see him. I never got to see Coltrane, but I played with McCoy [Tyner], Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison who did, and I did get to see Duke Ellington.
You’ve been granted a pass to the Other Side. Whom would you chose to talk with?
Duke Ellington. There was something about him, the way he approached things. He was charming and yet at the same time disarmingly so, he’d really get to the point. Miles could be real to the point, too, but he wasn’t always charming. Duke Ellington was brilliant and just to be in his presence, I’d learn by having a conversation with him.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully alive, healthy and still playing.