The Unexpected Present

House Hunting for a Home for Yuri’s Music

Yuri @Trumpets 1999

The elusive House of Yuri Notes was to be a place to call home for his music—a place for the memorable moments of the past, present, and future. We sold his house in a flood zone in Roselle, where he lived and worked in a basement studio for twenty years. Since the move, his custom-made studio was taken apart, stored in a cousin’s house (in another flood zone), and later submerged under three feet of water and ruined, thanks to Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Adding to the bad luck, in September 2011, the house he grew up in on Genessee Street in Trenton was vandalized after his uncle died, and the childhood memories– his father’s books, his mother’s delicate china– in this beautiful home were wantonly destroyed. It was a lot of trauma to withstand.

We were nomads. Yuri and I shared this trait, unaware until we compared notes regarding our years of moving boxes. Our ancestors survived famines and wars until deported and driven out of their ancestral homelands, making America their place of refuge with freedoms they never knew existed. By the 1970s, the socioeconomics shifted from supporting the arts to validating the profit margin. Despite being true to ourselves as artists, we remained rootless in our forever search for stability in love, relationships, housing, and health insurance. With effort and some luck, everything else could be obtained, inherited, sold, exchanged, and bought through negotiations. Bartering was our mainstay for survival.

The world changed in the ‘90s. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the beginning of globalization, and the supposed end of the Cold War suddenly brought places around the world that were forbidden to become accessible again. The internet began transforming art and society as self-expression became a rallying cry for environmental and social justice and racial, sexual, and gender identities. However, recessions and business practices took a turn for the worse as cuts for the arts, marketing, and promotion were the first on the corporate chopping block, followed by mergers and acquisitions.

Past transgressions with agents and industry players in the transformed and turned upside-down music biz, left a bitter taste. Yuri made his Faustian bargain, settling for an established place to live and work. By the mid-1990s, he had produced some of his best creations as a recording artist and producer. Seasoned with the progressive sounds from The World, all songs for Currents, a CD with Now, Voyager, were written, produced, and arranged by Yuri Turchyn. It was engineered and mixed by Anthony “Stick” Nittoli, and it was additionally engineered and recorded at Ron Howden’s Sheffield Productions in Hightstown, New Jersey.

Music experimentation continued as Yuri’s philosophy matured and focused on the meaning of life and love. According to The Music Player, “The Complete Music Magazine Anywhere,” it was an Independent’s Day critique by Andy Glass in August 1994– Now, Voyager, Currents: Breezy pop with funky currents and a jazz overlay by violinist/guitarist Yuri Turchyn and his quintet. Turchyn and Amy Broza are a delightful duo on the delightful sultry “Baby Come Back.” Their debut CD has been compared by many to Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, and the contemporary World Music sound.

However, many turbulent changes lay ahead. To stay independent, you had to be relevant with purpose and procedure. Our professional lives were parallel to the times as we loaded up on an array of equipment for an office setting, including desks, charts, filing cabinets, bulletin boards, clamp lights, and vast lengths of winding power cables. The analog art studio/recording studio was slowly developing into a DIY digital experiment. It was a steep learning curve, but Yuri was on it, as was I, taking the challenge of turning onto off-beat, off-the-track roads to make our years of training in our life’s work, whatever it took. He played. I podcasted.

Changes were made as life continued, followed by the formation of Yuri’s jazz infusion quartet, Grupo Yuri. He loved those nascent days of music discovery, especially what came from the structure, arrangements, and emerging talents. One of his favorite places to play was Trumpet’s Jazz Club and Restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey. Montclair is 13 miles west of Manhattan, approximately 30 minutes, and remains a commuter town for New Yorkers searching for a slower pace with an artistic Bohemian feel in the various Montclair neighborhoods throughout the decades.

It was a great time and place for the shops hanging on, like Kodak Photo, Record Store, the Cat’s Pajamas, a shop with unique jewelry, and affordable movie theaters for the early Montclair Film Festival. I worked as a freelance graphic design and board artist living on Valley Road next to Tierney’s. Photos of Yuri with the first Grupo Yuri players at Trumpets show his pride and joy in this music family.

Yuri with Grupo Yuri
They were his children, his kids, his guys, his players, and the photographs show the love. When I saw the pic of Yuri standing in front of the Trumpets entrance, the “aha” moment landed on me like a water balloon splat on my brain. This is what he wanted– a jazz club. Trumpets. He wanted to call Trumpets his music home.

According to a northjersey.com article, Trumpets was a legendary Montclair jazz club that hosted musical greats like Wynton Marsalis and Betty Carter. It opened in 1988 under founding owner Emily Wingert. The club hosted jazz greats Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Etta Jones, Gato Barbieri, Astrud Gilberto, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentin, and local notables Billy Hart, Houston Person, Vic Juris and his wife, Kate Baker, Dave Stryker, and Yuri Turchyn with Grupo Yuri. Classical guitarist and jazz harmonica player Enrico Granafei from Italy regularly gigged there. He met his wife, Kristine Massari, at an Italian Renaissance music festival in New York City in the ‘90s. When owner Emily Wingert sold it to them in 1999, it became their home — they lived above it — and a home for many well-known jazz musicians, those just starting and experimenting with their music.

Yuri and I frequented the place often when we lived in Clifton. It was a reconnection for Yuri’s return to Trumpets with his band and from back- in-the-days when I lived and worked in the area. One of the final performances by Yuri Turchyn+Grupo Yuri Jazz took place there, in the Trumpets spotlight, but soon a farewell to them both. In 2019, Kristine, a jazz singer who taught Italian in the West Orange public schools, retired, and the building was sold to Newark developers, the Hanini Group. According to plans presented to the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission, the historic two-story building, built in 1880 and facing the Walnut Street train station, would become a restaurant with outdoor dining and a separate café. I’m still house hunting for a home for the Yuri Turchyn Archives.

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