A Sunday afternoon, the sky is getting dark. It is almost about to rain. It is cold and there is a nice breeze.
We have no idea where the stray cats find refuge in such a hide as we watch them cross the street between the cars amidst the traffic jam. We park our car at ITU’s Maçka Campus as we try to come to terms with the question marks in our heads. We still have 45 minutes free. It is the perfect amount of time for a cup of coffee and a few spoonfuls of cake to share.
It started to rain. We forgot to bring the umbrella, my wife and I are getting wet but we don’t care. It is obvious we have feelings that warm us from the inside. We pass through Reasürans Passage and pick a cafe. One of the millions of cats greets us grumpily at its door. We make our way towards a table with 3 seats, it doesn’t want to accompany us, it continues on sulking, and then jumps on a warm pillow nearby a table at the back. It settles on its “throne”.
We drink our coffees. I realize that I am drinking one of the worst coffees that I have drank in quite a while, because I have spent my student life with a belly full of caffeine—I know which coffee is prepared with what method. “Whatever” I think “At least it doesn’t taste that bad!”. I focus on what my wife is saying, she is taking elaborately about something, I listen…
We finish our coffees and walk back into the rain. We take quick steps this time and arrive at the entrance door of the stone-bezelled university. Istanbul Technical University is right by the water, and was one of the two colleges, along with Galatasaray University which promised an education with Istanbul right under your feet, that I dreamt of attending. It had been a long time since I saw this building that I dreamt of studying in while going to the sweets shop famous with its water puddings in Nişantaşı. I feel like I walked through the doors of a free and new world. I realize the building I thought to be big and monumental is actually dark and lonely; my love and compassion for it intensifies and I feel a knot in my throat…
We make our way upstairs while we try to catch our breaths, thinking “Old buildings also have old stairwells”. We rest for a second after seeing the sign which says “MIAM”, and feel our excitement double at the same time. MIAM (Müzik İleri Araştırmalar Merkezi), founded by Dr. Erol Üçer in 1999, aims to educate music research experts and publish the results of their musical investigations. MIAM also has a successful recording studio and I walk through its gate as one of the 10-12 people who were to attend the album recording session of tÖZ, which is open to this small audience. A very excited Çağıl greets us at the door and wants to offer us some coffee, but we would rather not after the coffee disaster we just experienced. Çağıl seems to be responsible for shooting the photos and the videos, they talk about the final preparations as we hear the sounds of instruments being tuned from inside. I can feel it even if I cannot see it; the tension is at an all time high there.
We hear someone say “Come in, we can invite you inside now!” some moments later.
We get moving, walk through two small doors and step into the studio. I cannot remember how many exactly but a lot of albums were recorded in this studio. The first album I can think of as I write this article is Çağıl’s second album “Şimdilik Herşey Yolunda”. We learn that the studio is entrusted to the care of tÖZ for the following 3 days and they will choose their favorites from the pieces they record and include them in their album after these 3 days. I knew that one of the few Steinway pianos used for recording in Istanbul is in this studio, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be used for this particular recording session. I knew we were in for a great evening when I saw the piano as I walked in!
We learn that we are to be silent during the recording, but are allowed to record the session with our phones in airplane mode. However, I intend to focus fully on this unique experience in order to engrave it in my brain, and not record anything since I think “They are already recording!”. Everybody is ready, the cameras are rolling and we hear someone say “Silence!” from afar.
During a conversation with Baki Duyarlar, one of the masters of Turkish jazz, he told me about how unforgettable the first few seconds of a Keith Jarrett concert he attended was and how he thought Jarrett was “no longer in that concert hall, and who knew where he imagined he went” as he played the intro, called “head”, which is a classic. I can easily say that I felt these same feelings as Tamer Temel started out playing a soprano saxophone solo as he leaned into the Steinway to utilize the echo. Who knows where he went to after that solo?
This is how an unforgettable story begins!
Of course, the significance of this day is much more important for me, because this band has been together since 2016 and gave concerts as tÖZ in the recent past but this was the first time I was listening to their music!
I keep on taking my notes slowly and silently. Neither the technicians nor the musicians make any more remarks at this point. Nobody says “This will be our first piece, the title of the second piece is so and so.” There are no breaks in between the pieces, nobody asks for a time out. There are no endings to the pieces; there are no codas. The album is “flowing” as the new generation would say, I like this new use of the word as they contributed to the Turkish language. It flows towards the unknown. What we call an album as a whole is like a singular piece! Tamer Temel, Ercüment Orkut and Cem Aksel express every single thought in their souls as notes and these flow out of their bodies, take wings and fly towards us. I imagine that the band moves onto the next piece when Ercüment and Cem Aksel throw their partitions on the ground. Every other part becomes a story in my head since I have no idea about the titles of their pieces: A dynamic and high tension story which is pitch black and tall; one that takes place in the dark, cold back alleys of Istanbul. I try to figure out the depression and worries about life that the young character I created is going through while I listen the the music that the band is creating in the moment, and many topics pop up in my mind that paint a picture of this album. I can guarantee that new topics will keep on forming as I listen to the album in the future: “Stress, anxiety, hardships, tears, shame, phobias, blood, arguments, money, power, lust, anger, jealousy, break-ups, depression, revenge, pity, compassion, friendship, light, vicious cycles…”
All these pieces that follow one another, all the feelings and the enthusiastic applause of the guests after the recording session was done led me to a single conclusion: Tamer Temel created his musical magnum opus through the strength that he borrows from his favorite musicians. I am only worried about how tÖZ, one of the 2-3 best projects I have listened to in the recent years, will be able to raise the bar higher after such a recording session.
One of my favorite aspects of jazz is that it leads the listener to freedom of thought. Someone can listen to “Kind of Blue” and feel various things while you listen to MadenÖktemErsönmez after feeling the infuence of Albert Ayer’s notes, and then feel entirely different things when you listen to these 3 bands the next time, and find different answers to your questions. Therefore, you can shape the unique world you created while listening to jazz in any way or form you want as you please.
tÖZ is one of the bands that give its listener such a freedom. I have no doubt in my head that they will speak out to you in a different want and you will have your own stories in your imagination after listening to the album.