Album reviews

Önder Focan – ‘Patlıcan’

Önder Focan – Patlıcan
(Focan Jazz. Album review by Francesco Martinelli)

If you drop by the Nardis jazz club in Istanbul, by the Galata tower, and chat with guitarist Önder Focan, the chances are that you’ll get a good gastronomical tip about restaurants in the City besides the more obvious musical recommendations. Conviviality in Turkey – as in Italy or Greece – is central to the culture, and in all our countries there are endless uses of the eggplant, aubergine, patlıcan, melanzana or μελιτζάνα (melintzána).

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But there is a musical simile: for Önder, the “eggplant is something like the bass in music: it doesn’t have much of a taste on its own, we can’t eat it by itself, but it enhances the meaning of other contributions, gives them body and bottom”. So the album opens with the bass riff on “Karnıyarik”.

Gastronomy is no stranger to jazz – beginning with Armstrong’s titles – but conceiving a whole record as a tribute to a vegetable is certainly original. Focan pulls it off, however, with his habitual sense of bonhomie and relaxed fun, ably assisted by a chosen band with some of the best young jazz musicians in Istanbul: Enver Muhamedi on double bass, Burak Cihangirli on drums and Uraz Kıvaner on keyboards complete the rhythm section while veteran Şenova Ülker on trumpet and flugelhorn, Anıl Şallıel on tenor saxophone, Burak Dursun on trombone are the featured soloists.

Önder quite surprisingly introduces on bouzouki “Musakka” (Moussaka), a tribute to a dish that exists in both Turkey and Greece, with variations on the theme of ground beef and eggplant.

These cultures share also the 9/4 Zeybek dance, and the makam Nikriz (link): so, says Focan, “I wrote a 9/4 zeybek. and used bouzouki … We start playing the 9/4 melody with a double time feeling from the second chorus. When it comes to double time, it’s like 18/4, with 3 4/4s, one 6/4, or 4 4/4s and one 2/4, and solos sound like swing in 4/4”. So much for Time Out! Şallıel’s vocal tenor saxophone shines here.

The rest of the album is equally tasty: a joyous, fun celebration of music, friendship and conversation that best exemplifies the spirit of Mediterranean jazz. As they say in Istanbul, Afiyet olsun!

LINKS: Interview on Jazz Dergisi

Focan Jazz website

Categories: Album reviews

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