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One of the world’s most respected jazz innovators is coming to Lafayette’s Williams Center for the Arts, and he’s bringing his conch shells with him.

A member of the Saturday Night Live Band since 1984, Steve Turré’s early mentors included jazz giants Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Now at the height of his career, he has consistently won both the Readers’ and Critics’ polls in JazzTimes, Downbeat, and Jazziz for Best Trombone and for Best Miscellaneous Instrumentalist, the latter award recognizing the unique sounds extracted from what he calls “sanctified shells.”

Turré will perform a diverse program of funk, world music, and straight-ahead jazz with Funky T, an ensemble featuring an expanded rhythm section with an Afro-Caribbean percussionist in addition to drums, 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3. Tickets cost $20 and may be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

“The jazz world needs more Steve Turrés,” proclaims Rolling Stone. “A powerful technician with a soulful tone and quick wit, Turré is perhaps the leading trombonist of this generation. Turré also wails on his self-designed conch shells, making a robust sound that can be both eerie and serene.”

“Turré is an amazing, inspiring, consummate musician,” states the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). “He can play marauding, modern, hard-charging post-bop of the first order, barreling through blues chord changes with glee. And Turré can also impress with discreet and tender chamber balladry.”

The concert opens a fantastic lineup of musicians visiting campus this season in Lafayette’s Jazz Masters Series, which is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. It includes the Fred Hersch Piano Trio, featuring drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Drew Gress, Tuesday, Nov. 9; the Jack DeJohnette Latin Jazz project, featuring conga sensation Giovanni Hidalgo and clarinetist Don Byron, Friday, Feb. 11; and the Dave Holland Big Band, among the finest jazz ensembles touring today, Wednesday, March 9.

A subscription to Jazz Masters costs $64, representing a savings of $16 compared to the total cost of the four individual concerts. To order or learn more about subscription packages or individual tickets, call the box office.

Also performing at the Williams Center this season will be saxophonist Kenny Garrett, featured artist in the 2004 Easton Jazz Festival, which again will be co-presented by Lafayette and the Boys and Girls Club of Easton as the club’s fund-raising benefit. Tickets for the concert, set for 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, cost $20.

Funky T, as in Funky Trombone, includes phenomenal saxophonist Lennie Pickett, leader of the Saturday Night Live Band in which Turré and Funky T pianist Leon Pendarvis also play. Also performing in the group is the drum-percussion duo of Omar Hakim and Abdou M’Boup

Turré was born to Mexican-American parents and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, where he absorbed daily doses of mariachi, blues, and jazz. While attending Sacramento State University, he joined the Escovedo Brothers salsa band, which began his career-long involvement with that genre.

In 1972, Turré’s career picked up momentum when Ray Charles hired him to go on tour. A year later, Turre’s mentor Shaw brought him into Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. After his tenure with Blakey, he went on to work with a diverse list of musicians from the jazz, Latin, and pop worlds, including Gillespie, Kirk, McCoy Tyner, J.J. Johnson, Herbie Hancock, Lester Bowie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Van Morrison, Pharoah Sanders, Horace Silver, and Max Roach.

Kirk introduced him to the seashell as an instrument. Soon after that, while Turré was touring in Mexico City with Shaw, his relatives informed him that his ancestors similarly played the shells. Since then, Turré has incorporated seashells into his diverse musical style.

Turré leads several different ensembles. Sanctified Shells uses the seashell in a larger context, transforming his horn section into a “shell choir”. Turré’s Spring 1999 Verve release, Lotus Flower, showcases his Sextet With Strings. The recording explores many great standards and original compositions arranged by Turré for a unique instrumentation of trombone and shells, violin, cello, piano, bass, and drums. Turre’s quartet and quintet provide a setting based in tradition and stretch the limits conceptually and stylistically.

In summer 2000, Telarc releasedIn The Spur of the Moment. This recording features Turré with three different quartets, each with a different and distinct master pianist: Ray Charles, Chucho Valdes, and Stephen Scott.

Turre’s self-titled Verve release pioneers a unique artistic vision, drawing upon jazz, Afro-Cuban, and Brazilian sources. The recording also features Cassandra Wilson, Randy Brecker, Graciela, Mongo Santamaria, and J.J. Johnson. Previously Turré recorded Right There and Rhythm Within, featuring Hancock, Sanders, and Jon Faddis, and Sanctified Shells, on Verve’s subsidiary label, Antilles.

The nationally recognized Performance Series at Lafayette attracts more than 10,000 people each season. It has been cited for performing excellence by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Chamber Music America, Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund, Pennsylvania Arts and Humanities Councils, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

The 2004-05 Performance Series at Lafayette is supported in part by gifts from Friends of the Williams Center for the Arts; by the F.M. Kirby Foundation; by provisions of the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist-in-Residence Program, J. Mahlon and Grace Buck Foundation, and Croasdale Fund; and by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

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