The song that elevated Gecko Turner’s profile was a bouncy rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” loosely translated into Spanish. Amalgamation is a concept that suits Turner just fine, and with a tight band backing him he ably blends Africa-inspired beats with melodies and words inspired or written by other masters, among them Bob Marley, James Brown, Fela, Miles Davis and Lou Reed.
Turner was booked for two U.S. appearances — he’s at SOB’s in New York tonight — to promote “Guapapasea,” his debut disc that Quango released Stateside earlier this month. His second album, “Chandlismo ilustrado,” was released in Spain March 28, and several of the tunes — which tapped into early ’70s funk — made it into Thursday’s set.
But what distinguishes Turner on record is equally apparent in a live setting. His sonic palette is vast and yet focused — he can play Brown’s “Licking Stick,” making it hard and aggressive like the original, and then take a similar set of chords, place them over a hip-hop beat flavored with Brazilian accents and then drop in some angular bleats from a muted trumpet to come up with a tune that’s fresh and grounded.
Regardless of whether the genesis of a song feels Caribbean or Chicago, Turner sells the song with conviction and honesty. He plays rhythm guitar and leaves the solos to guitarist Jose Eduardo Do Nascimento, a specialist in sparseness, or the trumpeter, Irapoan Rocha Freire, who on this night was channeling “Bitches Brew”-era Miles Davis.