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Akbank Jazz Festival, “Cereyanlı”
and more: Alp Ersönmez

Blog
Akbank Jazz Festival, “Cereyanlı” and more: Alp Ersönmez

01.10.2020

As Akbank Jazz Festival leaves 30 years behind, we seized the opportunity to pay a visit to Alp Ersönmez, who has taken the festival’s stage with various projects, for a conversation about the festival’s past, his own personal experiences and upcoming solo album.

“I think the most important issue for an artist is to have their own voice.”

Interview: Cem Kayıran
Translated: Yetkin Nural
Illustration: Saydan Akşit

Whether with various musicians or your own projects, you are one of the names that we always look forward to seeing on Akbank Jazz Festival stage with great anticipation. When and where did the most memorable Akbank Jazz performance for you take place? How was the vibe?

For me, most special concert(s) happened during the Jazz on Campus tour for my 2011 album, Yazısız. We gave a series of performances at university campuses across nine cities. I believe we reached out to a lot of people, some of whom have never listened to jazz before. It was a wonderful tour; we still talk about it among ourselves.

How about the most special concert experience where you were not on stage but among the audience? 

I listened to Andrew Hill at the 11th Akbank Jazz Festival. He is a very important composer. It was a very exciting experience for me. 

The upcoming special Akbank Jazz Festival album takes its inspiration from Turkey, especially Istanbul within the contemporary context. What do you think about the festival’s role in forming and expanding urban jazz culture?

I think that the most important aspect of Akbank Jazz Festival is that it provides us with the opportunity to listen to alternative names who we don’t get to see live often. In time, we will continue to meet with more alternative names. Any organization that feature more local names is valuable to us.

You are taking part in the album with MadenÖktemErsönmez project. When did the you compose the MÖE song that is featured in the album? What kind of motivations are behind it? And finally, aside from this compilation, can we expect more new recordings from MÖE? 

I also am a part of İlhan Erşahin’s Istanbul Sessions recording for the album. With MÖE, we took a different approach. There wasn’t even the idea of a song at the beginning. First Volkan (Öktem) came up with a drum composition at home, then I completed it with a bassline and a harmonic structure. After that, Sarp (Maden) changed that harmonic structure, and I replayed my part based on the new edit. We worked as if we were doing a jam session; but far apart and at different times. We were very happy with the result and we will work in the same format for the new album as well. We have some ideas from before, and we will work on them with this new approach.

With Istanbul Sessions, I reconfigured an unreleased song, working with old recordings. It became a totally new song! 

After 2011’s Yazısız, new album, Cereyanlı is soon to be released. We know that this new album will feature names like Erik Truffaz, Papa Dee, Bugge Wesseltoft. You have been performing these songs on stage for years now, what else can you share with us about the album version of Cereyanlı? How did the pandemic impact the album’s general schedule?

To begin with, we had to postpone the release from spring to fall. Cereyanlı is an album that has been waiting to be released for years. From Gezi events and following social turbulence to record label problems and my busy schedule, a lot has intervened. I have decided to release it as to two parts at the end of this fall. And when everything is back to normal, we want to play a lot of concerts. 

You are a very active musician who always gets involved in new recordings and projects. In the past months, you released SONIC BOOM’s first studio recording with Elif Çağlar, Çağrı Sertel and Volkan Öktem. What is in the near future of this project? Is there any intention for an album?

SONIC BOOM’s new single is coming soon. I won’t say more! 

You are among the jury of JAmZZ competition, which is coming back after a five-year break. What are your suggestions and advice for young musicians who will compete?

I think the most important issue for an artist is to have their own voice. It might be very beneficial for a young artist at the start of their career to imitate others, but this is a path that needs to be abandoned in time. Musicians who can play with their own voice, whose character is evident in their compositions and style are always on a different level.

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