Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nap Turner's Homage To Langston Hughes

The late Nap Turner, was a Washington DC institution. A musician, actor, community activist, Nap’s hosted jazz and blues radio programs for several decades on WPFW (with his mantra of “Don’t Forget the Blues”) as well as performed blues showing a considerable Percy Mayfield influence. A regular feature of his radio programs would have him read the Simple stories of the great Langston Hughes. In 1996, Nap and jazz vocalist Ronnie Wells, produced a cassette of him reading several of the Simple stories backed by a quartet of Turner on bass, Charlie Hampton on piano, Sonny Forriest (the one-time Ray Charles guitarist) and Lenny Robinson on drums. This was issued on a cassette Hughes’ Views of the Blues, that was sold at Nap’s gigs but long unavailable.

Subsequently Wayne Kahn recorded Nap part of his documentation of the DC area music scene and issued a selection by Nap on the essential anthology, The Blues You Hat to Lose Volume 1, which launched his Right on Rhythm label. Subsequently Wayne issued two well received CDs of Nap Turner, one of which included two more of the Simple stories. They discussed issuing all of the Hughes material Nap had done, but Nap passed away too before they could realize this dream.

With Nap’s beloved wife Gloria working with Wayne, Right on Rhythm has just issued Nap Turner Presents Hughes Views of the Blues, bringing together the seven stories presented on the cassette, the two stories on an earlier cd and Naps introduction and two more stories from a performance at a now closed DC club, Smokeless. There is a richness to Turner’s baritone and carefully paced delivery of these timeless stories. Hughes wrote about the folk of everyday lives in the African-American community and these stories rang so true to them and there is so much about their shared experiences here, which undoubtedly is what attracted Turner to them, yet their is plenty of humor and commonsense and love that the characters have for each other that should be readily understandable to most. It is marvelous to have this available.

While a live recording of Nap singing the blues is available at the store at, this is not listed on that website but is available from I likely received a review copy from Right on Rhythm. This review appeared originally in the April 2006 D.C. Blues Calendar. Nap died in 2004 and I was privileged to have known him. He was an advocate for jazz and blues as well as an accomplished singer and radio personality. I bring this CD to your attention if by chance you are not aware of it.

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