Brad Turner Trio

Dates 22 June – 1 July 2007 Venue Ironworks Reviewer John Jane

Last time I saw Brad Turner perform, he was the trumpet player with the Peggy Lee Band at the same venue exactly two years to the day as part of the 2005 Vancouver Jazz Festival. This time the versatile musician was leading his own trio on piano, joined by Darren Radke on bass and Bernie Arai on percussion. This was Turner’s third festival gig in five days, but his first at the Ironworks.

The Ironworks, converted into an Art Gallery and film studio from an old machine shop, is a selected venue for the jazz festival for the third year. Located a couple of blocks east of Gastown, it still has the original wood plank floors and proudly displays artifacts from a time when the establishment was at the centre of Vancouver’s old industrial sector.

Venue manager, Anna Kalfa introduced the band to a nearly full house, then Turner got underway with free flowing solo passages interpreted from a new Bill Frisell tune. Radke and Arai joined him on the rock-solid interpretation of Michel Legrand's romantic ballad, You Must Believe in Spring.

Turner’s piano playing style at times appears to be influenced by the tense exploratory ramblings of Keith Jarrett, while there are moments when one can identify with the free-form phrasing of Vince Giraldi. Turner’s piano was featured at the start of the second set to jaw-dropping effect on Blues Tempo, a terse, urban bluesy tune that juxtaposed the bands progressive elements. This was followed by one of Turner’s early forays into composition that featured Bernie Arai on percussion.

Turner’s musicianship is undeniably exceptional, but his stage presence is underwhelming. He is very much a man of few words and the words he has are barely audible. Transparency is often the fate of proficient double bass players, so it’s likely that hardly anyone would notice that Darren Radke didn’t play a wrong note all night.

What can you say about Bernie Arai? The former UBC engineering student can be similtaneously a leader and follower. On the harmonically complex Iris his understated expansive percussion served to compliment Turner’s abstract explorations.

Vancouver-based Brad Turner is a proven multi-instrumentalist and regarded as one of Canada’s leading composers and arrangers. A special thanks to the 2007 Vancouver International Jazz Festival for providing jazz enthusiasts with an opportunity to see top class musicians for as little as fifteen dollars.

© 2007 John Jane