From old England to New England, multi-instrumentalist Chris Turner has spent his life creating an extremely diverse body of work involving collaborations with acoustic folk groups, electric blues groups, harmonica choirs, and theater music, to name just a few of the ensembles that have found him to be a resourceful, energetic, and valuable player. Since the late '80s, he has been comfortably situated in Providence, RI, where the majority of his work has been with the Trinity Repertory Company, a local theater group. Prior to that he has a fascinating track record of activity, including early participation with groundbreaking British avant-garde bands such as the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and the Portsmouth Sinfonia. In the '70s and early '80s, he was also a founding member of the Nee Ningy Band, a North Carolina ensemble that blended diverse strains of traditional folk music years before the label of world music had been concocted. One of his associates in that band, fiddler Rachel Maloney, is his collaborator in his New England theater projects as well as in a variety of other experimental folk bands, including the Big Zucchini Washboard Bandits. It is estimated that Turner has appeared on some 200 records. Nobody will ever know what they all are, apparently, least of all Turner. "Back in the blurry, druggy days of the '60s and '70s, I played at a lot of sessions where the only person I would meet would be the producer," he recalled in a 2002 phone conversation. "I would play, they would hand me a few quid, then I'd be out the door. I would rarely find out what had come out, if anything had." Not all of these records vanished without a trace, however. One fondly recalled item is Turner's unique entry in the world of Roxy Music, when bandmember Andy Mackay formed an ensemble called the Players to record Christmas, a collection of yuletide music to which Turner adds whiffs of exotic instrumental effects, including the jawbone.
He is most often heard on harmonica, which along with the recorder was his first instrument as a child. He came from a musical family, and by 1967 was performing professionally all around London, like many harmonica players easily fitting into a variety of different genres. In terms of instruction in music, his main influences were his college composition teacher Christopher Small and free improvisation legend John Stevens, who utilized Turner's talents during a period of creating large-scale orchestral improvisations. By the '70s, he had evolved into a virtuoso performer on both the normal mouth harp and the elongated chromatic model. In 1975, he won first place in an international competition sponsored by Hohner harmonicas, an indication that he knew what he is doing. Blues harmonica fans can find examples of his impressive, sometimes startling playing in this genre on recordings by Champion Jack Dupree and British bluesmen Mike Cooper and Ian Anderson. He also performs on the huge bass harmonica, as well as a mess of other interesting instruments, including the bombard, which sounds more like a one-word synopsis of American foreign policy than a musical instrument. He has lectured, taught, and developed music workshops in both academic and community based institutions of learning. Turner has traveled widely, including a tour of Morocco sponsored by the state department .