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Jazzin' Around Europe

Ismet Siral Creative Music Studio Istanbul 2006

By Published: August 31, 2006
Saz virtuoso Erol Parlak presented his unique saz quintet

The living traditions are there, at arms' length one could say, but the youngest generations as a majority have difficulties reaching them, as they take them for granted and they think they know these old things anyway, because they vaguely realize them in their background. But having the twin neys of the Tekbilek brothers, the rich strings of the Baktagir/Yurdal kanun/ud duo or of Erol Parlak's unique saz quintet vibrate in the room and extract living, pulsating music from age-old instruments and compositions was an ear opening experience from many of them who eagerly asked questions and informations. While Omer Faruk Tekbilek who moved to the USA is more wellknown, his brother Haci Ahmet was the first one to make inroads in the European jazz scene with some memorable solos in Lps by Oriental Wind, the groundbreaking Okay Temiz group. He's a true master of ney, reed instruments and saz as well, and to have him back in Istanbul was a great joy.

Turkish-canadian Mercan Dede brilliantly exposed his way of working with found and composed sound, in an intringuing parallel with visual arts and film editing. The lone failure was the Grimes/Crispell workshop, a spontaneous affair which was hijacked by some young participants into an overlong jam of little or no interest/usefulness.

CONCERTS

Master bassist and composer John Lindberg gave a key contribution

The opening evening saw the concert by Karl Berger's group featuring the leader on piano and vibes as well the uniquely pure voice of Ingrid Sertso; with a set of Berger and Cherry compositions, the group soared, propelled by Tabbal and Lindberg. Carlos Ward in fantastic form showed once again that he's his own man on alto saxophone with sharply etched lines, and Graham Haynes on trumpet might be the heir to the sorely missed Lester Bowie, plump notes buildind a majestic structure. Darbuka player Misirli Ahmet, who developed an impressive array of extended techniques on the instrument, and Trilok Gurtu joined in, enriching the sound palette and engaging in exciting dialogues. DJ and ney player Mercan Dede is receiving a lot of attention lately and rightly so, since his music is a fresh take on the idea of merging the old and the new trances, the breathy lament of ney with the electronic grooves he grew up with. I especially like the way he always uses real acoustic sounds and samples in his pieces, never more so as in his lates Cd on Doublemoon, Nefes. With him, the already mentioned Göksel Baktagir on kanun, Yurdal Tokcan on ud, and the amazing new talent of 14 year old Aykut Sütoglu on both G clarinet and trumpet!

Erkan Ogur plays his double axe - fretted for Western and unfretted for Turkish intonation - a symbol of today's Turkish music

The second concert opened with Erkan Ogur Telvin's trio—I am pleased to quote John Lindberg's reaction: "One of the most exciting sets I witnessed in a long time . Ogur plays his own mutant guitar with one fretless neck, developing extended improvisations based on materials derived from Anatolian folk and powered by the interplay with Ilkin Deniz on bass and Turgut Alp Bekoglu on drums. A true spring of music, his Cds on Kalan both as a performer of traditional songs and as an improvisor in a more jazz-related context are an excellent entrance point into Turkish music. Henry Grimes' playing has been getting steadily better since his miraculous return on the scenes, and the trio with Marilyn Crispell on piano and Tani Tabbal on drums delivered the goods: the sonic storm suscitated by the tiny pianist met by Grimes' huge sound and inventiveness, the qualities that made him a bass players sought after both the avant-garde and the mainstream musicians—not that these distinctions make any difference for such a deep musician.

Trilok Gurtu and Karl Berger, an old friendship renewed

The third concert was a big gamble: a huge open-air theatre, and competition with much more commercial music all around. The result was amazingly good, considering the limited amount of publicity that the festival could afford; a huge crowd almost filled the arena for the Woodstock to Istanbul/Istanbul to Woodstock concert. The program presented two ensembles, one deftly coordinated by Mercan Dede and the other based on Karl Berger's band with Turkish guests. The music lived up to the rest of the festival, even if the sheer size of the arena, the needed amplification and the distance between stage and performers did not make things easier. But the quality of the performances more than made up for any shortcomings: the exciting percussive dialogues between a brilliant Tani Tabbal and darbuka master Misirli Ahmet, the intertwining neys of the Tekbilek brothers, the range of colors and techniques in Ingrid Sertso's voice, Don Cherry's lilting melodies arranged by Karl for his band are among the many memories of that night.



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