Nightlife: Mike Turk at the Turtle, by Steve Morse, April 14, 1983

“Jazz lovers mourn the decreasing number of local jazz clubs, but they should be encouraged by Inman Square in Cambridge where no less than three nightspots feature quality jazz.

This unheralded nightlife center, Inman Square, boasts Ryles, Springfield’s and the newest jazz entry, the Turtle Cafe. The latter is an intimate restaurant which has recently begun booking some of the better solo and duo acts in town.

Designed as an art deco luncheonette, it has bright blue-bordered walls, wooden booths, a marble bar countertop, orange-toned lights and a mural of a large lifelike turtle. The 50-seat cafe is a snug hideaway at 1247 Cambridge St., just down the street from Springfield’s.

The Turtle doesn’t have a stage. Performers play in a far corner and compete with a fair amount of conversational din, but the ambiance is pleasant even if this is not a showcase atmosphere.

Known as an inexpensive restaurant, with a decent menu of meat and fish entrees along with exotica such as mussels marinara and broiled monkfish, the Turtle Cafe introduced Sunday night jazz in January. Local names such as Makoto Ozone, Dick Johnson and Bob Winter have played on Sunday for $5. cover or $15. if you want dinner. They start about 8:30 p.m.

Entertainment has since expanded to Thursday through Saturday nights with no cover charge. A frequent lure is the duo of Mike Turk and Bruce Katz who last weekend played a tasty recital of jazz standards by Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and Cannonball Adderly.

A Bronx native, Turk is a virtuoso harmonica player who studied sax at Berklee and adapted the capabilities of the saxophone to the harmonica, achieving a sure-toned but highly charged harp style. He has backed local folk and country artists like Geoff Bartley, Papa John Kolstad and John Lincoln Wright, but the past few years he’s moved heavily into jazz, playing in New York last year before returning to Boston.

‘Trying to play jazz harmonica is tough,’ he says. ‘A lot of people think you’re going to do a Bob Dylan schtick or the ‘Beer Barrel Polka.”

His partner is Bruce Katz, a jaunty Berklee-trained pianist who pushes boundaries and rarely plays it safe. He and Turk are back at the Turtle April 22 and 23. They also perform tonight at 9 in the chorale room of Lyons Hall at Boston College as part of the college’s jazz series.

As for other Turtle news, pianist Janet Hood plays tonight and tomorrow, while the highly regarded team of guitarist Guy Van Duser and reedman Billy Novick perform Sunday.’

-Excerpt and images courtesy of, The Boston Globe, “Nightlife,” by Steve Morse, April 14, 1983

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