Esteemed GRAMMY nominated composer, multi-instrumentalist and scholar Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol announces the release of Turkish Hipster, an intercultural exploration from swing to psychedelia with his dynamic jazz orchestra Whatsnext?

Due out July 21, 2023 via DÜNYA

Watch the teaser here.

Celebrated pianist, composer and noted scholar Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol is pleased to announce the July 21, 2023 release of Turkish Hipster: Tales From Swing To Psychedelic via DÜNYA. Following the release of his critically-acclaimed 2021 album An Elegant Ritual, which featured the artist in a trio setting for the first time, Sanlıkol returns to the large ensemble format with this powerful new collection of stirring compositions. On his seventh album, Sanlıkol finds a through-line that connects musical cultures from all over the globe, and taps into these commonalities to create works that can resonate with us all. Turkish Hipster allows the listener into the mind of the composer and to delight in the beauty of a global musical language. 

Sanlıkol’s stellar large ensemble is comprised of drummer Antonio Sanchez, clarinetist Anat Cohen, alto saxophonists Miguel Zenón, Mark Zaleski, Aaron Kaufman-Levine, and Lihi Haruvi, tenor saxophonists Rick DiMuzio, Bill Jones, and Aaron Henry, baritone saxophonists Melanie Howell Brooks and Kathy Olson, trumpeters Mike Peipman, Jeff Claassen, Dan Rosenthal, Doug Olsen, and Jerry Sabatini, trombonists Chris Gagne, Bob Pilkington and Garo Saraydarian, bass trombonist Angel Subero, pianist Utar Artun, guitarist Phil Sargent, bassist Fernando Huergo, and percussionists Bertram Lehmann and George Lernis. Sanlıkol also contributes to the album by singing as well as performing various Turkish instruments as well as the berimbau, synthesizers, keyboards and Fender Rhodes.

While the album title Turkish Hipster might conjure images of Brooklyn residents donning small beanie hats digging through crates of vinyl records, the moniker is in fact intended to describe the band leader himself. Sanlıkol, it seems, is the original hipster (the composer shed his early western-classical piano training to play progressive rock in his teenage years). When prog became mainstream, he went on to study jazz. When a digital instrument adequate enough to perform his microtonal melody lines didn’t exist, he designed and created one, known as the “SANLIKOL Renaissance 17”. Finally – where a sound did not exist before that embodied the many musical languages that he is so heavily steeped in, Sanlıkol created that sound – alongside his masterful ensemble ‘Whatsnext?’. Hipster; intellectual; renaissance man; whatever you want to call him, Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol is driven by passion and authenticity. He delivers both on this hard-hitting release.

On Turkish Hipster, audiences hear Brazilian capoeira married with Turkish folk, Turkish psychedelic rock culled from the 1970s and American hip-hop all within a jazz orchestra idiom. Historically, the album features the first-ever recorded performance of the saxophone and the trumpet sections of a jazz orchestra playing precise microtonal flavors of Turkish music. Sanlıkol achieved these results through the use of alternate fingerings and various techniques he perfected over several decades.

“Perhaps it is fair to say that this album presents innovative original music written for jazz orchestra that has entry points for a wide audience due to its stylistic variety and accessibility,” Sanlıkol reflects. While acknowledging that non-western influences tend to inspire many jazz recordings these days, this one, he feels, is particularly special: “What I am suggesting, and presenting on this album, is a sophisticated form of cosmopolitanism that allows us to access many worlds without seeking to reduce or standardize them.”

In line with such cosmopolitanism, what begins Turkish Hipster is a piece built around a fully hybrid groove which Sanlıkol constructed as a result of his multi-musical past. In “A Capoeira Turca (Baia Havası)” while the trumpets and featured clarinetist, Anat Cohen, can be heard playing selected microtonal flavors of Turkish folk music through the alternate fingerings Sanlıkol developed, the binding musical element is the hybrid groove that connects to lighter and funkier Brazilian feels as well as feels reminiscent of those found in vintage Turkish rock recordings from the 1970s. Perhaps the most adventurous and expansive compositional statement on the album is “The Times of the Turtledove” which was inspired by a classical Ottoman/Turkish rhythmic cycle derived from the call of a turtledove. This piece featuring Miguel Zenón presents an extended microtonal section fully steeped in classical Ottoman/Turkish music. 

The Boston Beat” pays homage to Boston’s great jazz legacy featuring renowned rapper Raydar Ellis as well as Anat Cohen, Antonio Sanchez and Miguel Zenón. Sanlıkol notes ““Estarabim” has certainly been one of my favorite Turkish rock songs of all time and it is the kind of classic that would be immediately recognized by pretty much any Turkish person,” the Boston-based artist shares. “While I tend to distance myself from music that has achieved the status of a classic, I made an exception here due to being convinced by the horn arrangement as well as the ska/reggae influences.”

The “Abraham Suite”, which concludes the album, was first commissioned and recorded at the Jazzaar Festival in 2019. That project united three different composers (Gil Goldstein, Fritz Renold and Sanlıkol) representing the three different Abrahamic faith traditions’ versions of Abraham’s story. Sanlıkol has wanted to release a jazz orchestra version of his suite ever since, and is thrilled to see it come to fruition here. 

As far as Turkish Sufi music influences go, first section “The Fire” is where they can be heard most clearly in the form of a zikir (vocal ostinato), while “The Sacrifice” begins with a calm introduction led by the duduk (double reed pipe). This track quickly transitions to an anxious Afro-Cuban fusion feel building up throughout the movement while featuring several soloists. Finally, “The Call” brings this suite to a point of reflection. “I have been after a touch of eternity”, Sanlıkol’s lyrics lament – sharing with us the true purpose of the artist’s journey, to strive towards a moment, of which there are many on this very album, where time seems to stop and our spirit soars.

Track Listing:

  1.       A Capoeira Turca (Baia Havası) featuring Anat Cohen  
  2.       Times of the Turtledove featuring Miguel Zenón  
  3.       The Boston Beat featuring Anat Cohen, Antonio Sanchez & Miguel Zenón  
  4.       Estarabim 

“Abraham” Suite featuring Antonio Sanchez 

  1.       Movement 1 – The Fire
  2.       Movement 2 – The Sacrifice 
  3.       Movement 3 – The Call “A Touch of Eternity”

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