Turkey is not a country easily associated with jazz, let alone free jazz. Apart from some great world jazz albums by Kudsi Erguner, and Barbaros Erköse, very little comes to mind, and that has more to do with this reviewer than with the Turkish jazz scene. Sure, most famous is probably Okay Temiz, the percussionist who played with jazz greats like Don Cherry, Johnny Dyani, Bert Rosengren, and who was a real presence in the Nordic jazz scene in the 80s.
Now we get this great box of three LPs, in which Okay Temiz performs on two of them.
The first LP is short, with only twenty-two minutes on both sides, performed by Konstrukt, the Turkish band which has been quite prolific over the past years. Check out their albums with Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, and Marshall Allen. Here they sound like a free form of the 70s Soft Machine, with organ and electric bass creating a specific color, supported by solid drumming, and a saxophone which resonates high in space, distant yet powerful. The music is trance-inducing, full of raw power and energy. It may seem a little chaotic at times, but that's part of the charm. The musicians are Korhan Futaci on tenor saxophone, alto saxophone and flute, Umut Çağlar on moog, vermona organ and electric guitar, Özün Usta on djembe, electric bass, flute and cura, Korhan Argüden on drums and old K Zildjian cymbals.
The second LP offers us a piano trio, with Hüseyin Ertunç on piano, flutes, küstüfons, kalimba, Okay Temiz on drums, flutes, triangle, harp, waterphone, kalimbas, and Doğan Doğusel on double bass and küstüfons. On the second side, Daniel Spicer joins on percussion and Umut Çağlar on kalimba. And what you get is anything but your traditional piano trio. Ertunç's playing is percussive, like an unchained Cecil Taylor, full of unpredictable changes, and so is the music, because it moves from jazz to more traditional flute and percussion, almost without any coherence with what went before, apart from the musicians, yet somehow it all flows quite naturally from one to the other. I like Side B even more, which starts more meditatively with piano and percussion, yet somehow it again switches to percussion laying a rhythmic foundation for several flutes and reeds. Somehow, all this was re-constructed in the studio, yet the effect is mesmerising and good.
The third LP is like Don Cherry in the seventies revisited. You get a thirteen-man strong band going for it, with all restraints unleashed, in a hypnotic tribal dance that doesn't seem to stop. The band is Okay Temiz on kalimba, percussion, flutes, soprano saxophone and horn, Hüseyin Ertunç on küstüfons and flutes, Doğusel on küstüfons and flutes, Musa Dede on percussion, hand drum and flutes, Sarp Keskiner on percussion, hand drum and flutes, Özün Usta on cura, hand drum, overtone flute, Korhan Futaci on flute and alto saxophone, Umat Çağlar on violin, flute and bendir, Murat Taner on zurna, Barlas Tan Özemek on acoustic guitar, Selim Saraçoglu on acoustic guitar, Daniel Spicer on bamboo saxophone, trumpet and bendir, and Berke Can Özcan on drums and percussion. Thirteen musicians playing dozens of instruments.
The music is a mixture of jazz with traditional music, with influences thrown in from India, the Middle-East and the Balkan, into the great world music fest you can expect, or that goes even beyond expectation. It starts slowly, with guitar and flutes and rhythmless percussion creating an almost sad funeral tone, joined by the soaring sax, and after five minutes, rhythm picks up, with a repetitive theme presenting itself, gradually increasing speed and volume when the whole band participates. Now the rhythm is kept, and the shamanistic repetitive theme on the bamboo saxophone is repeated tirelessly, yet all other flutes and sax move and circle around it, in full free form, to be interrupted by total mayhem in the middle part, then total deconstruction, then things are put back again, repetitively, the theme repeated tirelessly, over and over, maniacally, like an endless invocation of spirits, like a festive dance that nobody wants to stop, and anything can happen, and sometimes it does, but this without disrupting the hypnotic trance-inducing theme, around which the whole band swirls and swirls like a great celebration of life itself. Like with Don Cherry's bands, technical proficiency is not a must, it's all about the collective playing, the richness of sounds moving together in the same direction, inviting everybody in the community to participate.
This music is like a jump back into the past, a travel through time, when collective playing still had a kind of philosophical and spiritual aura, where the communal experience of sound creates magic.
Available from Instantjazz.