Those who believe the term Turkish Hipster has to be an oxymoron should get to know composer/arranger/multi-instrumentalist Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, a Turk whose seventh album, subtitled "Tales from Swing to Psychedelic," is about as hip as can be. Sanlikol knows where is going but chooses to get there in his own special way, using every weapon in his musical arsenal to create vivid sound pictures whose jazz components rest solidly within a Middle Eastern framework that set them apart from the normand are decidedly hip.
Sanlikol has a large orchestra, which he calls What's Next? (and several excellent soloists) at his disposal, and uses them to good advantage throughout. Even so, it is the assertive Middle Eastern rhythms and seldom-heard instruments that lend the album its singular flavor. Sanlikol plays many of those instruments himself including the ney, duduk, zurna, rebab, saz, berimbau and kasik, among others. He also arranged every number and wrote all save "Estarabim," which was composed by Erkin Koray (who also wrote the lyric, sung in Turkish, by Sanlikol).
After exploring a number of Eastern-flavored themeseven "The Boston Beat," with a rap vocal by Raydar Ellis, sounds more Middle East than East CoastSanlikol closes the session with the lustrous three-part "Abraham Suite," a more than twenty-minute opus whose individual components are "The Fire," "The Sacrifice" and "The Call." Sanlikol pulls out all the stops here, employing every one of the orchestra's disparate parts and unique instrumentation to press home his point, and even singing again (although uncredited again) to help clarify "The Call."
Clarinetist Anat Cohen is featured on the opening "A Capoeira Turca," alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon on "Times of the Turtledove" (which begins and ends with the sound of birds singing), and both are heardwith percussionist Antonio Sanchezon "The Boston Beat." Sanchez lends his superb timekeeping skills to "The Abraham Suite" as well, making sure that Sanlikol and the orchestra are rhythmically well-served. "Turca" is Middle Eastern all the way, enriching Cohen's solo and giving the full orchestra ample reason to shine, while "Turtledove" is more easygoing but no less persuasive, as Sanlikol mans the keyboard while Zenon and Sanchez make their voices heard.
As on his earlier albums, Sanlikol delights in disparity and refuses to be pigeonholed. If that's hip, so be it. To Sanlikol, it is simply making music, using his background and experience to bring the Middle Eastern mystique and American jazz closer together. In that sense, hip or not, "Tales from Swing to Psychedelic" is a win-win enterprise.
A Capoeira Turca (Baia Havası); Times of the Turtledove; The Boston Beat; Estarabim; Abraham Suite I. The Fire;
Abraham Suite II. The Sacrifice; Abraham Suite III. The Call "A Touch of Eternity".
Bob Pilkington: trombone; Garo Saraydarian: trombone; Angel Subero: bass trombone; Utar Artun: piano;
Phil Sargent: guitar; Fernando Huergo: bass; Bertram Lehmann: drums on all pieces except for Abraham Suite;
Raydar Ellis, rap; Noel Smith, voice (Times of the Turtledove); Brian O’Neill, vibraphone, kudüm, cymbals; Mehmet
Ali Sanlikol: vocals in Estarabim and The Call, ney, duduk, zurna, rebab, saz, electric saz, berimbau, kaşık,
woodblock, tambourine, synthesizers/keyboards, continuum fingerboard, clavinet, fender rhodes in The Call, guitar
& piano in The Boston Beat, bendir in Times of the Turtledove.
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