Cemre Necefbas was born in Istanbul in 1994. Cemre started performing during her high school years at Robert College, singing Jazz, Soul and R&B at various concerts and festivals with the RC Orchestra. She became a finalist at the “Akbank Jamzz” Competition in 2011, and her band Off Keys became a finalist in IKSV Young Jazz Competition in 2012. She won the NTV Special Award in 2012 Nardis Young Jazz Vocalist Competition, where she also recieved the opportunity to attend Sibel Köse’s vocal workshop. She attended the Veneto Jazz Workshop in Italy and the Berklee Five Week Program, where she studied with various musicians among whom are John Ellis, Amy London and Lin Biviano. In 2013, Cemre joined the MMA Band under the instruction of Nilüfer Verdi, and with this band she performed in various venues in Istanbul. Cemre is currently based in New York, where she graduated The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music on full scholarship, under the instruction of legends that include Reggie Workman, Vic Juris and Jay Clayton.
Cemre congratulations about your graduation, what followed?
As you know, I graduated from New School, where I received a full scholarship from, with double majors last year. I received a degree in Jazz Voice Performance from the School of Jazz and a degree in Contemporary Music from Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts. Even though my education focused mainly on jazz performance, I had the opportunity to study music production, music, art marketing and the sociology of music from the Liberal Arts department (I minored in English Literature and attended very enjoyable literature and screenwriting classes).
The first few years of school was intense due to both studying and working, but I was able to take part in fun projects. I attended the 2016 International Jazz Month program of WBGO’s jazz radio with Taulant Mehmeti, my talented guitarist from from Kosovo and his band Balkan Jazz and performed Taulant’s arrangements. Taulant and I started to perform together quite often after that. Again in 2016, I recorded as the back vocalist in Japanese musician Senri Oe’s Answer July album; Sheila Jordan was the main vocalist there. I performed with Bang on a Can ensemble and played John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis at Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2017. This was a very humbling moment for me.
Did you only get to study or could you sing as well?
My own performances were getting intense during the last year of school. I found a great jazz session scene during the spring of 2017, where I really enjoyed going to. A traditional, New Orleans style jam session has been taking place at a bar called Mona’s in Manhattan every Tuesday evening since 10 years. I have enjoyed it since day 1 and went there to sing at every opportunity. I was able to gather my courage to perform at other jam sessions through my time there. I started to participate in sessions at more straight ahead, famous jazz clubs like Dizzy’s, Smalls and Mezzrow in New York.
Is it easy to perform there?
It isn’t possible not to come across some prejudice as a female musician and as a jazz vocalist at such venues and during jam sessions. I started to view my ‘need to prove myself’ as a sort of motivation in such situations. I started to expand my repertoire of jazz standards, to practice to richen my improvizations and to interpret the standards I sing with more diligence. This showed me that the jam sessions I participated in had an incredible educational effect on me.
Did you meet anyone and perform with them?
Yes, of course, this is the best consequence of participating actively in jam sessions. I play frequently at various venues in New York with the musicians I met and played together in such places. For example, I shared the stage with Grammy winning saxophonist Linus Wyrsch and Cyrille Aimee’s band mate, drummer Dani Danor, previous Valentine’s Day due to a funny coincidence.
Who do you perform with and where?
I have two trio projects of my own (we call both Cemre Necefbas Trio at the moment). We play traditional, New Orleans and gypsy jazz pieces with one of the bands I mentioned every month at Bar Belly in Manhattan.
We have played together with the other trio for a year now, Nick Semenykhin plays the guitars and Josh Marcum plays the bass. This trio plays every month at Red Room in Manhattan in addition to some other performances. We are getting ready to record a live album with this trio at the end of summer, near autumn.
I also have a duo project with pianist Clifford Cameron, a musician I met at New School and could call my soul mate. We have a repertoire that consists of our own compositions and various pieces we really enjoy from “all over the place”. We will perform at a popular venue in Brooklyn called The Owl on the 27th of June with this duo project.
It seems like you will continue your music career there. What is to come?
I feel like my music career is taking off in New York and this makes me really happy. What gets me really excited is to write my own music and to arrange them, then to play these pieces with my beloved musician colleagues. We were performing my recital at New School when I had this opportunity previously. I wish to bring this band together this summer and perform at a few venues and to play my new pieces and arrangements.