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Steve Turre speaks, 'My Mother and Me,' Clark Terry's birthday

Ron Scott | 12/14/2011, 5:09 p.m.

Large seashells aren't a familiar jazz instrument, but trombonist Steve Turre has made them a part of his musical arsenal and brought them into national jazz fame. It was Turre's ancestors who originally played the shells; he was born to Mexican-American parents.

On Dec. 15 (tonight), Turre will share his unique jazz journey at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (104 E. 126th St., Suite 2C) during its "Harlem Speaks" series from 6:30-8:30 p.m. This riveting conversation is free to the public.

Turre joined the Escovedo Brothers salsa band while attending Sacramento State University. He absorbed a combination of mariachi, blues and jazz while growing up in the San Francisco Bay area.

In 1972, Ray Charles hired him to go on tour, during which he got a heavy dose of funked up jazz. He later joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. After his tenure with Blakey, Turre began to weave through the genres of jazz, Latin and pop, playing with a diverse group of musicians from Dizzy Gillespie to McCoy Tyner, J.J. Johnson, Herbie Hancock, Lester Bowie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Van Morrison, Horace Silver, Max Roach and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. It was Kirk who introduced him to the seashell as an instrument.

Turre has been a member of the Saturday Night Live Band since 1984. One of his ensembles, Sanctified Shells, uses the seashell in a larger context, transforming his horn section into a "shell choir."

Turre's Verve release, "Lotus Flower," showcased his Sextet with Strings ensemble in the spring of 1999. The recording explored standards and original compositions, all arranged by Turre with the unique instrumentation of trombone and shells, violin, cello, piano, bass and drums. His 2000 Telarc release, "In the Spur of the Moment," features Turre with three different quartets, each with a distinct master pianist, including Ray Charles, Chucho Valdes and Stephen Scott.

Turre's musical career as a bandleader who has played with the legends is a story well worth hearing. As an outspoken musician, the trombonist's conversation may also cover today's political tapestry. For more information, call (212) 348-8300.

Melba Joyce has a big voice that belts out tunes with such a timbre it rattles your soul, whether it's a ballad or swinging jazz tune. Her successful career spans over five decades, having shared the stage with Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Jordan and Lionel Hampton.

Her daughter Carmen Bradford also has chops, and the proof is her nine years with the Count Basie Orchestra.

The two of them, mother and daughter, are performing at Aaron Davis Hall on Friday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. It's called a "Holiday Celebration-My Mother and Me." This will be their first New York appearance together. These two dynamite voices under one roof will explode with standards as well as holiday tunes.

General admission tickets are $35; student and senior tickets are $25. Call (212) 650-6900 for more information.

Clark Terry, one of the most prolific musicians in jazz, celebrated his 91st birthday on Dec. 14. As an NEA Jazz Master, Terry has played with Charlie Barnet in 1947, the Count Basie Orchestra (1948-1951) and the Duke Ellington Orchestra (1951-1959).