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Before their Akbank Sanat performance: Bilge Günaydın Trio

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Before their Akbank Sanat performance: Bilge Günaydın Trio

15.04.2021

Interview: Biçem Kaya

Translation: Cansu Çubukçu

The piano, guitar and bass trio, Bilge Günaydın, Cenk Erdoğan and Ozan Musluoğlu will give a concert at Akbank Sanat YouTube channel on Thursday, April 15th. The repertoire consists of Günaydın’s compositions as well as various arrangements of the trio. Before the performance, they answered a few of our questions.

Your debut album Daydreams was put out under Ada Müzik and was named one of the best albums of 2020. It also gained acclaim in Japan, where it was released via Inpartmaint. To start with, what do you think about this album?

B.G: Actually, I was dreaming of releasing Daydreams for a very long time, so I waited for the best moment to record it and coddled it until the end. Despite any previous network, we received an offer from Inpartmaint to get it released in Japan, both digitally and as CD. I’m so happy to still be receiving positive reactions from national and international audiences. Looking back, the album makes me want to say: “I’m glad we made it.”

You wrote a thesis that deals with “organisation” and “texture” spanning from early jazz ensembles and on. The effort you put into the orchestration in your own compositions exhibits the parallels among your works, while containing the traces of classic music history. As a person who believes that unity makes the instruments speak and underlines the significance of performing in the same setting, could you tell us how the social distancing era altered this approach?

B.G: The thesis I wrote while completing my master’s degree in jazz at Bahçeşehir University was revolving around the historical changes that big and small scale jazz orchestras had undergone and their comparisons. As a composer, writing music for the orchestra is a passion and where possible, exploring room to stretch the expressive boundaries of the wide colour palette of music. In fact, I can say that the work I’ve composed during my time as the pianist of Akbank’s Istanbul Youth Jazz Orchestra triggered this passion. You can’t always work with big bands, but nevertheless, one of the most enjoyable parts of the game is to ensure that these instruments are participating in the most effective way as possible, especially while collaborating with wind instrumentalists. Pandemic-wise, it became almost impossible for crowded orchestras to get together, rehearse or perform in the past year. Although the projects seem to progress when the sounds are overdubbed during a recording, it’s not applicable to every music and it cannot replace the energy of playing together. But then, it is just a phase and who knows, we might be opening some new doors while stirring towards solo projects or smaller groups. 

Cenk Erdoğan is one of the names featured in Daydreams. In your trio, you make music with both Erdoğan and Ozan Musluoğlu. How did the collaboration process with the two begin? How was it shaped with the pandemic?

B.G: I met Cenk Erdoğan a week before we started recording Daydreams, which was the summer of 2019. Cenk was the jury when I attended Istanbul Jazz Festival’s competition with my own project. After the concert, he told me that he could participate in the album’s “Üvercinka” track, and I gladly agreed. The first chapter of our trio story was set in the time when Nardis Jazz Club was only organizing trio concerts due to the pandemic conditions. I always wanted to take the stage with such talented musicians like Cenk Erdoğan and Ozan Musluoğlu and when we played the trip concert for the first time, we made something unique and warm. After the second concert, we decided to projectize this trio. If everything goes well after the concert, we will record an album that consists of a repertoire with my own compositions.

Last fall, you published a quarantine album titled Arıyorum Hala. The work is blended with the increased awareness we’ve been feeling towards our surroundings. It also hosts a certain kind of solitude relating to the solo guitar work and the first time it came out. Can we perceive this album as a catharsis?

C.E: Actually, Arıyorum Hala is my quarantine diary. I began quarantining right after a longitudinal concert tour and naturally, I became more introverted and lonely. I also observed nature. I realized how fast it was healing itself when we weren’t around. And I made an album of our pursuit for beauty. There are overlapping recordings as much as solo guitar tracks. I could say that I recorded every variation running around my head. It is an album I really enjoyed putting together. 

During quarantine, you said another work was on its way. There is a lot of curiosity about the content and process of this work, as it involves the first-ever attempt at a fretless guitar concerto. Is there a starting point of this exciting project, how was it initiated? What are the latest updates on the postponed recording sessions?

C.E: The first melodies of the first fretless guitar concerto appeared in Rotterdam, Netherlands. I spent 4 days at a friend’s house, it was pouring rain and I just walked outside and began to compose. Then during the US tour, I worked 4 hours a day on average and made progress. I completed the rest during the lockdowns in Turkey. But of course, it’s not in the format of a classic concerto; it’s a symphonic orchestra and vocalist fretless guitar piece with 6 sections expressing different emotions. I wrote 41-minute music. In terms of its recording, I’m in the pre-production stage. Hopefully, after I record and release it, I will play it as much as I can. 

You’ve reached the whole world thanks to a listener’s advice on social media, performed in Europe and the Americas. You’re using your accounts very actively. As a matter of fact, you’ve created an open platform on Instagram named fretlessguitarlessons where you share your tips for those interested. Very recently, you performed at “Hikayesi Olanın Sahnesi” within the new normal regulations. In a time when the digital is replacing the physical, how do you feel about reaching the audience and meeting them through social media? The acceleration of listening and consuming is another symptom of this change. How is it affecting music?

C.E: Social media is one of the bare necessities nowadays. People are speaking of social media diets as naturally as the regular food diets. Unfortunately, I’m also living through some sort of obsession of my own. Do I miss the times when it didn’t exist? Yes, a lot. I mean, I missed calling someone and asking them what they are up to before checking Instagram to have a clue about it. On the other hand, it is a vital communication tool. A video of mine became viral and it was watched 7 million times, and right after I gave 88 concerts and 15 classes in the US and in Europe in 2 years. I feel blessed of course. Livestream concerts are a revelation for people but I’m sure we'll meet face-to-face when live concerts begin again. I hope nobody would prefer attending a concert from a 5-inch TV screen. My only wish is for them to pick good-quality broadcasts and sounds, distinguish the good from the bad and come to our concerts once the restrictions are over. I missed my listeners a lot! 

During the quarantine, you played with Eylül Ergin and Çağla Karaali close to nature and the project evolved into a trio. You gave a mini concert as a part of Akbank Sanat and World Jazz Day. To begin with, could you elaborate on Ozan Musluoğlu Trio’s future plans? 

O.M: Although our band originated from Ozan Musluoğlu Trio, we became a quartet after Serdar Barçın joined us. We named the trio Genedos after the Ancient Greek name of the Ahatlı village in Kaş, where the band was formed and the first ever Akbank Sanat concert took place. Genedos has currently delved on its originals and is resuming concert events. As of Ozan Musluoğlu Trio, we keep on performing as a quartet. 

You’ve mentioned that My Best Friends series has been ready for some time. Apart from this album named Bass Composers, you along with Nevi took part in a collective album of Turkish and Russian musicians. Your audience is waiting to hear from an album from Boho as well. You avoided publishing these albums during the pandemic because you prioritize live music and audience interaction. How does it feel to be giving a concert on Akbank Sanat YouTube channel, a digital interface? What changes does this mandatory interfacial switch bring along? 

O.M: Actually, we postponed the release of the Bass Hero Composer album named 9 and shared “Nevi” ve “Zum4tet” (used to be called Boho) with the audience. Uniting our listeners with these projects are joyous experiences for all of us. We’ve recently given amazing concerts with Bilge and Cenk. Giving a little taste of our future album will be very exciting. Although this mandatory interface change gets challenging in performances sometimes, we need to keep up with it and adapt. But I guess the absence of applause is the toughest... And what we miss the most…

With TRT you also open yourself to the big band music, and your signature is in works that crosses over the broad boundaries of jazz music. What are some of the details that make this Bilge Günaydın Trio performance, which will be available through Akbank Sanat, unique for you?

O.M: What makes this concert with Bilge special are probably the pure tones and beautiful melodies this trio acquires and the journey they take you. And I guess the most wonderful part of it is to bring that amazing energy with the audience at the concerts. See you on the 15th!

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