Winston Turner's career had reached a crossroads, and he knew he had to determine which path he would follow. Turner had been playing trombone for the renowned New Orleans brass band The Soul Rebels and finding great success at home and across the globe, but he itched to try something fresh and exciting.
Rather than attempting to change the Soul Rebels, Turner decided to follow his inclinations and form the kind of band he wanted. So, in 2010, he launched a new musical group called Brass-A-Holics.
"I was looking to start something new and different, to incorporate more of a funk type of vibe," Turner said.
He knew that to achieve this goal he would need really talented musicians who could play any type of music. Surprisingly, finding bandmates for Brass-A-Holics was an unexpectedly easy experience for Turner. All he had to do was show up at his favorite hangout spots and listen for what he wanted in his new band.
"I used to go to clubs every night and just look at people like, 'Man, this dude is good, she's good, I'll wait 'til the end of the night and talk to them,'" Turner said. "I got everybody together one time. We were just looking for somewhere to play. It was so much fun. It was magic. With no rehearsal, we just kept moving and moving. Then we started to think, 'Let's keep this thing together.'"
Brass-A-Holics' members are Turner (trombone), Tannon Williams (trumpet, also played with Soul Rebels), Robin Clabby (saxophone), Jason "Slick" Slack (bass horn), Matt Clark (guitar), Keiko Komaki (piano), Dwayne Muhammad (percussion) and Rickey Caesar (drums).
A trombone player by trade, Turner also writes and arranges much of the music for his band. Turner said his love for music was ignited by teachers who had an eye for talent and encouraged musical expression in all students. It started at Lawrence D. Crocker Elementary School in New Orleans.
"It was during the era when band instructors were experienced enough to let you play around with a couple instruments, and they could tell you which one you'd probably be the most successful on by just the way you hold it," Turner said. "Mr. Watkins and Mr. Salisbury at Gregory Junior High were very instrumental in helping me."
Turner cultivated his talent through high school and college under the guidance of other such inspirational mentors, and after studying mental health counseling at Southern University he moved back to New Orleans to pursue both careers.
"I never did have an opportunity to see a musician driving the car you want to drive. So I figured I would study something else but take music seriously. I'm a high school counselor from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The rest of the time, it's strictly music," he said.
Although Turner, Williams and other band members have performed at Jazzfest with other groups like Soul Rebels before, 2013 was the first time at the festival for Brass-A-Holics as a united entity. The band previewed their debut album, "I am a Brass-A-Holic." The record was produced by Grammy Award winner Irvin Mayfield.
"Being a musician, you tend to be your worst critic. I've had so many projects that I can't listen to, because I'll always find that one mistake. I'm not trying to blow my own horn, but this is one of those CDs I can actually listen to over and over and appreciate it." Turner said. "This is the first time I've had that feeling. Everybody had a big part in the production. The producer brought in people that are not part of the band and they add in that taste of flavor that makes you love a song again. It's unbelievable."
The album is complete, and Brass-A-Holics has been pre-releasing it at their live shows. Official release to the public is scheduled for late October.
"I learned a lot from traveling with [Soul Rebels]. Everything I've learned I'm putting it to use. Everything is working so quickly, and it's so exciting. We have the ability to go anywhere," Turner said.
Brass-A-Holics will be performing on Friday, July 12 at Tipitina's. They also have a weekly gig at Publiq House in uptown New Orleans every Thursday evening.
For more information on the band, visit http://brass-a-holics.com.