Ernest Turner’s thoughtful debut, “My Americana” makes classics new

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Ernest Turner, a veteran pianist, has recently released his debut album. “My Americana” represents Turner’s take on the idea of the Great American Songbook. For his purposes, the songs from African American culture are Americana, thus, the title.

After several years of being a member of the quartet that played on two of saxophonist Steven Riley’s albums on the SteepleChase label, Turner comes into his own as a leader.

The songs on “My Americana” range from classics by Stevie Wonder, to Thomas Dorsey, to Thelonious Monk. Turner is joined by Lance Scott Jr. on bass and Jon Curry on drums. The trio presents nine songs that are likely to be familiar to audiences, but perhaps in different contexts. However, it is easy to understand why the songs are important to Turner and his ensemble. The various time periods and styles represented by the songs is impressive. Even though this is a debut, it is likely to make listeners clamor for a quick follow-up.

About Ernest Turner

Turner’s musical journey began in Durham, North Carolina. There, he began taking piano lessons from his mother – – he was 4 years old. That early musical instruction led to university studies, performance opportunities in New Orleans, and back to Durham to participate in the city’s lively jazz scene.

The years Turner spent as a performer and bandleader seems to have prepared him for his debut album. In addition to performing, Turner’s education also prepared him for professional musicianship. He earned a bachelor’s degree in jazz studies from Loyola University, and a master’s from the University of New Orleans. While earning his credentials, Turner met members of the famed Marsalis family and befriended Jason and Delfeayo. Delfeayo, a trombonist, emphasized the historical importance of music. Turner used the details Delfeayo provided as he began to put together ideas for his first album.

“My Americana” by Ernest Turner

With a mix of secular and sacred songs, Turner keeps the recording interesting and captures the types and specific examples of songs that have relevance in black American communities.

Given Turner’s jazz credentials, audiences might be interested to hear what he can do with a Thomas Dorsey classic, “Precious Lord.”

The song is so rich with sound that it practically rumbles at each chord. The piano is lively, emotive and recalls the original song’s purpose. The soothing feel makes listeners want to tune in for several moments, and it is disappointing when the song ends after two and a half minutes.

“Ain’t Misbehavin'” sounds up tempo and contemporary. An energy exudes from the soundscape that almost makes the song into smooth jazz with modern elements. The drums thunder just right, providing a crushing backdrop for the piano’s expressive phrases. The bass is deep and groove-oriented.

The solemnity of the historical contexts of the songs on “My Americana” resists labeling the work as “fun.” However, “effective” and “necessary” are two words that fit this well thought out project.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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