In ‘Turkish Hipster’, Mehmet Ali Sanlikol takes us on a musical journey – GBH News

Grammy-nominated composer and multi-instrumentalist Mehmet Ali Sanlikol and his jazz orchestra, Whatsnext? are celebrating the release of their newest album “Turkish Hipster: Tales From Swing To Psychedelic“. The album weaves together a range of different musical genres along with talented guests artists to put together a truly multi-cultural experience. GBH’s All Things Considered host Arun Rath spoke with Sanlikol about the album. What follows is a lightly edited transcript.

Arun Rath: So let’s just dig right into this music, because Boston Beat is kind of a statement piece. It’s a wonderful celebration of everything that’s great musically about Boston.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol: Definitely. I technically do have a variety of things ranging from classical composition to Turkish music to jazz. But jazz was my first love. It brought me to Boston back in 1993, and I made a comeback to that career in 2012. Ever since, I’ve been noticing more and more how some of us living in cities other than New York get left out and I thought, “Wait a second.” When you think jazz composition, jazz orchestra, big band, Boston has a huge role in that history. We’ve had George Russell, we’ve had Bob Brookmeyer, we’ve had Ken Pollack, we’ve had Herb Pomeroy, we’ve had Legends of Jazz composition and jazz orchestra here. And so, I thought, let me make a statement. Let me put this out there for people to realize that when it comes to jazz composition especially, Boston has a lot to say.

Arun: I’ve got a huge smile on my face hearing you run through all those people, because you’re right. We don’t get celebrated enough for the contributions there. You’re talking about all your diverse interests, and what’s great about jazz is that it feels like you get all of that in this album. It goes to a lot of different places. I should say, the subtitle is “Tales From Swing to Psychedelic”.

Sanlikol: That’s right. The variety of different musical styles embedded in me found their way into this album within the jazz orchestra context. Essentially, it’s still a jazz orchestra, big band album, but the whole thing starts out with capoeira music from Brazil, meeting Turkish seventies rock feels. Yet it is music written for the jazz orchestra.

Rath: Yeah. Let’s talk more about that track because that one really does swing.

Sanlikol: The foundation of that song is a rhythmic idea, and the word ‘swing’ actually fits right in because the swing we’re talking about is not the jazz swing in this case, but it is a kind of Brazilian swing. Brazilian music styles have an uneven feel to them stemming from Africa. Strangely enough, though, when I was playing Turkish flutes from central Turkey, and I picked those up maybe 15 or 20 years ago, as I was learning, I noticed that the plucking patterns on the Turkish lute have the same swing. So I, being musically bilingual, or, if I may say bi-musical, I came to feel that similarity. I thought, “Wait a second, is it too crazy to actually try and come up with some sort of a hybrid groove?”

Rath: Was it hard to do that? How do you make something that’s sort of asymmetrical swing?

Sanlikol: Story of my life, because this is not the first time I’ve done this. When I attempt these really unlikely musical combinations, at first I’m like, “Wait a second, is it going to work?” I hear it in my head, obviously, but it’s another thing to bring these different musicians and have them feel it. The way I hear it, that’s a different story. So, it’s always been a risk. But you know what? Now it sounds like a million bucks.

Rath: Yeah, it sounds awesome. I love this record so much. It’s great talking with you. Next record, come right back here, please!

Sanlikol: Oh, thank you so much! It’s an absolute pleasure.

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