BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Expertly thwacking and thumping his makeshift drum kit—three plastic buckets and a pair of overturned metal pans—street musician Tim Turner provides the heart of downtown with a pounding yet dynamic groove from his spot on Central Avenue and Third Street.
The 35 year old, who knows his way around the keyboards and the saxophone, has only been playing drums for about a year and a half. Though he has never taken a formal lesson on playing drums—he acknowledged that he has friends who have given him valuable pointers—he learned from playing along to songs spanning different genres.
“That first year I was just studying the hip-hop beats and Stuart Copeland,” he explained, “all the rock beats. Incubus. I just put in a whole lot of work on tracks. Every morning, the sun rises and I’m out there putting in that work.”
Hailing from Richmond, Va., he is also a former St. Pete resident and makes a point to trek back to sunny Florida—usually with his sax or his drumsticks in hand—during big events that draw a lot of visitors, such as the Outback Bowl and the College Football National Championship game back in January. With his earphones in place and tip jar close—or tip suite case—he gets in a zone to keep the beat to the various songs he pulls up on his iPod.
Mo, Alicia Keys, 50 Cent, John Mayer and the Police are just a handful of the varied artists whose tracks he plays while banging out their rhythms.
“Just a little bit of everything,” he said.
Though these performers represent a wide range of styles, the drummers that Turner most admires are mainly jazzmen.
“I’m from the jazz school because of the saxophone,” he said, “so they’re more in the jazz base like Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Philly Joe Jones. Even the modern cats like Nate Smith and Billy Kilson.”
Turner said his biggest influences are friends of his back in Richmond, Va., like Corey Fonville and Billy Williams.
“They play with a lot of cats up in New York,” he said. “They’re around the world.”
When he plays outside venues before and after concerts, Turner makes a point of learning the songs of those particular artists. And though Turner has received his fair share of generous tips from listeners and passersby all over the country, one man in Charlotte, N.C. topped them all. It was outside a B.B. King concert where Turner was playing.
“This dude said to me, ‘Will you be here in 45 minutes?’” Turner recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he got me a $3,000 saxophone! Just handed it to me!”
The man had bought the sax for his daughter who never took it up, Turner explained, so the free saxophone wound up being his tip.
Turner plays shows with his various jazz bands at clubs and bars, he said, but he never waits around for someone to offer him a gig. He loves the freedom and spontaneity the street musician’s lifestyle affords him as he has traveled up and down the country.
“I can always play!” he said. “If I want to play drums I can play drums. If I want to go to California tomorrow and kick it for a week, not only can I go to California and kick it for a week, I can come back with money!”