Composer Brian Turner creates catchy, pop-savvy piano pieces based in classical and jazz genres. Pianist Richard Shulman's work, also based in jazz, often tends toward the meditative and even New Age realm. Still, says Turner, the two would "probably be stuck in the same bin in the CD store."
That's due, in part, to the fact that local composers — especially those who craft instrumental music instead of songs with lyrics — are often overlooked in favor of rock bands. Both Turner and Shulman perform with bands as well: Shulman leads the Earth & Sky with Richard Shulman trio; Turner regularly performs with Orange Krush, he sits in with the likes of The David Dhoop Band, Peggy Ratusz and Maddy & Masterpiece, and he's shared the stage with Warren Haynes, Bobby McFerrin, Jeff Sipe and others.
"Many people see us regularly gigging out in different combinations as soloists, with bands, etcetera, but they don't know we are composers who sell and perform our music around the world," says Turner.
The two pianists plan to change that perception with a shared evening of music that they've nicknamed "Piano Journeys," because, says Shulman, "each one of us us taking the audience on a journey." The musicians will perform separately and then together in concert at Asheville Music and Art's new Edelweiss performance space.
Turner and Shulman met at the 80-member Asheville Area Piano Forum. "We just thought, why don't we do something together?" says Shulman. Though the two musicians have very different styles, they share a common background. Both studied classical piano as children and then found their way to jazz. For Turner, that amounted to playing in his high school jazz band and later taking a lesson here and there, like from local artist Bill Gerhardt.
Jazz was Shulman's passion when he was living in New York City. Then, "Certain things happened to me in my life which made me start exploring meditation. From that place, the skills that I had in jazz served me to be able to perform music for meditation. In jazz you learn to play what you hear inside. It's just a slightly slowed-down content, for meditation, with a different intent."
He adds, "I started out [with] emotional expression. Still there's emotional expression but there's reorganized intent of expressing the divine. It comes out as jazz, as New Age music, as classical music, but it's all heartfelt."
"I'd like to think my music does that, too, on some level," laughs Turner. He says, "All my music has pop forms: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge. That's from growing up as a child of the '90s and listening to pop music — everything from hip-hop to R&B."
Those pop roots mean that even listeners who aren't schooled in classical and jazz sounds will likely find some familiar ground in Turner's music. What often scares potential listeners from a piano concert (other than the button-down connotation) is that, "Nowadays people need to hear words with music," Turner says. "Everything is so fast-paced; no one can just sit and listen to music."
But Shulman points out that what the composers offer is "an alternative to that run, run, run. It's a different thing than just giving people what they've heard before and what they want," he says. "Everyone has a resonance to that internal place of peace."
Plus, both artists will take time at their show to talk about their work, their process and inspirations — and cellist Marie D'Andrea will accompany Turner who says, "Piano and cello … like PB and J." And the Edelweiss performance will also showcase some new work as well as music from both musicians' catalogs. Turner recently released his solo debut, Ascension and Shulman is in the final stages of writing a musical called A Dream of Camelot.
Alli Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: Brian Turner and Richard Shulman
what: Piano concert
where: Asheville Music and Art's new Edelweiss performance space, 697-C Haywood Road. (Both will be on WCQS at 2 p.m.; Turner performs with The David Dhoop Band at Tallgary's at 9 p.m.)
when: Friday, June 11 (7 p.m., $12 advance/$15 at the door. ashevillemusicandart.com, richheartmusic.com or btkeys.com)