Controversial saxophonist Turk Mauro was born in New York City on June 11, 1944. Born to a family of first-generation Italian-Americans, he first experienced jazz when his father, Dominick Turso, performed with local swing bands in his neighborhood. Mauro (real name: Mauro Turso) would follow his father around at gigs, idolizing Louis Armstrong and other jazz musicians of the time. He began to play the alto saxophone at 14, joining the musician’s union only one year later. He would hang around restaurants that his favorite musicians were known to hang out in, eventually meeting his mentor, trumpet player Henry Allen. Allen started getting Mauro gigs around the city until he graduated from high school in 1962. Mauro began work in a bank mailroom, but he could not leave music for long and eventually started playing in jazz bands again. He married in 1965, but his relationship with his wife was strained by a life on the road and two children he was not around to take care of. He lost touch with his daughters after the marriage fell apart in the mid-’70s, but he continued to tour and play. He met Billy Mitchell, a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s band, while playing in a club one night. That chance meeting led to a few performances with Gillespie himself, and eventually a permanent spot with Buddy Rich’s band. His reputation as a perfectionist made him a popular sideman in the New York area, and he managed to release a debut album in 1977, The Underdog. This scored him a job at the Blue Note club in New York City, but his second album (The Heavyweight) was a flop, beginning a dry period through the ’80s. He eventually had to start looking for odd jobs, driving taxis and limos and completely abandoning the jazz world. No less of an authority than Sonny Rollins ran into Mauro in 1987 and suggested that the depressed musician try his luck in Paris. Mauro dropped everything and booked the first flight to France. He started to find regular work there in the clubs and venues as a sideman, and after nearly dropping out of the music scene he was in demand again. His success in Paris led to a beautiful apartment in the city, as well as the chance to bring his brother and father to France to see him play and perform with him. He also had a self-described lucky streak during this period where he met his second wife and even found money on the street more than once. His marriage did not last long however, and by 1991 he began another dry period. Work dried up in Paris when a recession hit, and despite hanging around for a few years in the hopes that the scene would be revived, he eventually moved to Florida with a brand-new wife in 1994. He took care of his sick father (his mother had died in 1990) and managed to play at the few jazz clubs in South Florida at the time. He also began to gamble, spending ridiculous amounts of money trying to gain back the money he had been making in Paris. On top of that, his wife was furious that this habit had developed, driving a wedge between them that would never mend. He began having health problems of his own in 1999, spending time in the hospital for an inflamed colon that would eventually burst. All of these problems came to a head in November of that year when he punched a local singer named Beverly Barkley after she complained of his smoking habits earlier in the night. The two had performed together before, and had never gotten along, but the attack was unprovoked and he had to be stopped from hitting her with a chair after she fell to the floor. A Fort Lauderdale police officer who was working the door arrested him and she drew up a lawsuit. Among her claims was that he was spitting racial slurs at her, something that became quite an issue in the case as he admited to everything but that aspect. The accusations stopped his music career dead in its tracks, and his wife left him soon after he was released from jail. He moved in with his father to take care of him, but his father passed away in early 2000. Mauro was convicted of battery and disorderly conduct, which left him with a one-year probation and 50 hours of community service. In 2001, he still had not yet gone to trial for the incident with Barkley, but he has managed to get occasional gigs as a musician around the Florida area.
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