When we think of the term "virus," we equate it with human disease or an infection, as in a computer virus. But consider the musical virus known as free jazz, or improvisation. Its origins can be traced back to a Louis Armstrong solo deviating from his brass band's arrangement. Quickly, his extemporizing blossomed into jazz music and gave birth to creative soloists. Fast forward 50 years, and free jazz players created whole pieces of music spontaneously. Ornette Coleman, The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Cecil Taylor, and Anthony Braxton spread the free jazz virus to the British Isles and EuropePeter Brötzmann in Germany, Derek Bailey in England, and the Ganelin Trio in Russia fueled this musical epidemic.
In this 21st century, some of the most exciting developments in free jazz are happening in the most unlikely places. Lebanon's scene with Mazen Kerbaj and Sharif Sehnaoui have been documented by the Al Maslakh Records and the new superheroes of improvisation, the Turkish band Konstrukt are at the center of a breeding ground for new music. The quartet of guitarist Umut Çağlar, saxophonist Korhan Futaci, drummer Korhan Argüden and percussionist Özün Usta have recorded several noteworthy discs, including Dolunay (Re:Konstrukt, 2011) and Eklisia Sunday (Not Two, 2013) with Peter Brotzmann, Vibrations Of The Day (Re:Konstrukt, 2011) with Marshall Allen, and Live At Akbank Jazz Fesitval (Re:Konstrukt, 2011), with Evan Parker.
With the 3 LP release of Turkish Free Jazz (and also a limited edition of a 4th LP box set that was immediately sold out) they have established themselves as the darlings of the free jazz underground. Like the treasured Free Music Production (FMP) LPs of 1970s and 80s, these LPs are a portal into new sounds and reinvigorating ideas.
The first LP, Konstrukt is limited strictly to the quartet. The music is spacey, with the opener "Bulut" echoing shades of Sun Ra's experiments with Moog and primitive electronics. Their music pairs ancient cultural sounds with the present, making a kind of immutable sound of the future past. The piece "El Gato" is dedicated to Argentinean saxophonist Gato Barbieri, who together with Don Cherry fused world music with free jazz, and it burns with the smoldering sound of Korhan Futaci's tenor crackling in the fire pit created by the band.
The Trio LP included finds three legends of "old" Turkish free jazz, Okay Temiz, Hüseyin Ertunç, and Doğan Doğusel uniting for a piano/bass/drums session that explodes with ideas. The analogous trio to these players might be the Alexander von Schlippenbach trio or that of Fred Van Hove. The trio moves behind the traditionalist sounds of a piano trio into open-ended free music. The pieces are culled from both studio sessions and a live concert. The presence of the audience injects an energy surge into the live recordings, delivered without any hesitation via kalimba, flute and percussion.
The crowning piece of this collection is the 13-piece Etnik Orkestra LP Live In Istanbul, with Konstrukt, Okay Temiz, and Hüseyin Ertunç. The music begins within the folk traditions of Turkey and then blossoms into an amalgam of free jazz somewhere on the continuum between The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Sun Ra's Arkestra. The cavalcade of sounds include buzzing horns, whistles, flutes, and a percussion parade. The groove is so strong, it is easy to forget this is free jazz.
(LP1) Konstrukt (Side A) Bulut, Ates, El Gato (for Gato Barbieri); (Side B) Toprak. (LP2) The Trio
(Side A) Studio Part 1 & 2; (Side B) Studio Part 1 & 2. (LP3) Live In Istanbul: (Side A) Part I; (Side
B) Part II (rind).
(LP1) Konstrukt: Korhan Futaci: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flute; Umat Çağlar:
moog, vermona guitar, electric guitar; Özün Usta: djembe, electric bass, flute, cura; Korhan
Argüden: drums, old K Zildjian cymbals. (LP2) The Trio: Okay Temiz: drums, flutes,
triangle, harp, waterphone, kalimbas; Hüseyin Ertunç: piano, flutes, küstüfons, kalimba;
Doğan Doğusel: double bass, küstüfons; Daniel Spicer: percussion (A2) & Umut Çağlar:
kalimba (A2). LP3 Live In Istanbul: Okay Temiz: kalimba, percussion, flutes, soprano
saxophone, horn; Hüseyin Ertunç: küstüfons, flutes; Doğusel: küstüfons, flutes; Musa Dede:
percussion, hand drum, flutes; Sarp Keskiner: percussion, hand drum, flutes; Özün Usta:
cura, hand drum, overtone flute; Korhan Futaci: flute, alto saxophone; Umat Çağlar: violin,
flute, bendir; Murat Taner: zurna; Barlas Tan Özemek: acoustic guitar; Selim Saraçoglu:
acoustic guitar; Daniel Spicer: bamboo saxophone, trumpet, bendir; Berke Can Özcan:
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