"Keeping the Blues Alive Award" Achievement for Blues on the Internet Presented by The Blues Foundation
Nap Turner's career stretches back more than 50 years, but it is only
recently that he has got around to recording. His second album was recorded
live at the Cada Vez restuarant in New York, where Turner was accompanied
by the Gary Jenkins Quartet. That offers some clues to where Turner is
coming from, together with the inclusion of three Percy Mayfield tunes, one
of Turner's biggest influences.
The tune opens with the first Mayfield tune, "Stranger In My Own Town,"
performed as a shuffle. It shows that Turner has a fine rich baritone voice
that reminds me a little of Gil Scott Heron. The strengths of the
supporting band are also clearly demonstrated. There is no bass player, so
band leader and drummer gets by with a little help from Rick Hanna (guitar)
and Joe Kaplowitz (keyboards). It is a nice start, and one that has you
clicking your fingers, before Turner moves more into cabaret mode for
"Deadly Nightshade (The Great City)."
The music here, which is largely from the period where singers teamed up
with big bands or orchestras, was all stuff that Turner listened to as he
was growing up. In order to help try and recreate some of that cultural
experience he has included a couple of Langston Hughes' Simple short
stories which would also appear on the radio around that time.
Although he is only backed by a small band, they always seem to come up
with a musical arrangement that makes it sound just about right. This works
particularly well on the reworking of T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday." The
quartet are supplemented by Herm Hopkins on trombone, as they turn the song
into more of a shuffle. This helps to flesh out the sound and add a bit
more bottom to it. Arnold Sterling lays down the impressive sax solo.
Things do not always work out so well, however, and Turner comes a little
unstuck on Bing Crosby's "I Don't Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You,"
mainly because his voice is too deep to carry off the sort of starry-eyed
crooning that Crosby was so good at. Having said that, "When Did You Leave
Heaven," a song in similar territory, does work better.
To close things out, Turner is joined by long time friend Mary Davenport
(who passed on in August) for an amusing duet of "If You See Kay/ Meet Me
With Your Black Drawers On." It is not so much risque as overtly sexual. If
you do not quite get the pun of the song title, Davenport's enunciation
should leave you in no doubt about the song's meaning!
"Live At Cada Vez!" is a good job well done. Turner has a good voice, and
is backed up by a good band with a strong musical pedigree. Although there
may be nothing sparklingly original about it, "Live At Cada Vez!" is still
one of those albums that is nice to kick back and relax to at the end of a
long hard day.
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