For some of you it must have been pretty obvious; in recent years Turkish jazz scene has been receiving its fair share of some uniquely talented, superb foreign national musicians ending up settling in our land, embracing our country with open arms while creating a life here as residents. The ones first coming to mind (in alpabetical order); Dave Allen (guitar), Jef Giansily (piano), Luis Ernesto Gomez (percussion), Matt Hall (bass), Tomas Hetmanek (guitar), Amy Kelliher (vocals), Kristian Lind (bass), Apostolos Sideris (bass), Janusz Szprot (piano) just to name a few.
But why stop there? We’d say, “the more the merrier” for our diversified jazz community. That being said, we give you one of the latest additions to our jazz stage: From Italy, the very amicable jazz drummer, Riccardo Marenghi (now a proud resident of the lovely Cengelkoy).
Rhythmic by birth
“I was born in Piacenza, a small city in the center of north Italy. Though I don’t come from a musician’s family, my parents really loved music. I remember the time I made my mother listen to an african percussion ensemble for the first time, she said: “this is so similar to the sound of an old mechanic computing machine!”, and I said “how do you know mom?” She replied: “Oh, I used to work on a similar machine all day in the office while I was pregnant to you”.
So this rhythmic and restless beat was probably my first encounter with an external sound, along with my mother’s heartbeat. I think this is why I’m responsive to the complex and interweaving rhythmic patterns of percussion and drumming ensembles.”
The uncle effect
“My parents did not play any instruments, but my uncle was very much in music. He led a pop dance band as a second job. I remember listening to his orchestra, doing rehearsals or playing live. Around that time, my parents got me toy instruments; a guitar, a saxophone and even a toy drumset that I destroyed in a few days!! I remember beating on this set in the backyard of my grandmother’s house. It was a sturdy piece, composed of a wooden stool and a metal can. I vividly recall the two different sound possibilities coming from wood and metal, this was my beginning.”
“I didn’t start playing a real instrument until years later, at the beginning of high school when my cousin brought home a used drumset. I first started to play by hear. Every day after school and before my homeworks I would play my drums, mainly trying to imitate what I hear on the records or everything coming out of the radio. In high school I started jamming with my friends while forming bands. I was also listening to a lot of music, buying records if I could afford, but mostly exchanging cassette tapes with friends, you know, no streaming services at the time!”
Diggin’ into jazz
“It was pop, rock or even harder music that I listened to, but eventually I discovered Weather Report and Frank Zappa. This opened the door to other musical worlds, jazz for example. When I first heard jazz, and focused on the drummer, it was like an unknown language to me, it seemed so random and i couldn’t hear the logic inside, but it sounded even easier than the music i was playing. People were telling me jazz drumming was the mother of all drumming styles and it was harder to play, in comparison to rock or pop, so I said to myself “hey, here there is something more to discover, let’s dig in”.
A “more” formal training
“In the beginning, I was self-taught. It was years later that I saw a piece of written music for the first time, and for me this was a good thing in many ways. In college, while studying psychology, I discovered music education is similar to learning a new language; first you hear the language, the sounds, you try to imitate the tongue, then in primary school you learn how to read. So after a year or so of doing things on my own I eventually looked for a drum teacher in my town. Found one, stayed with him for about a year. Then I started taking classes at a private music school in Cremona, and after that, enrolled in another private music school in Milan (Center for Education in Modern Music) studying there for 4 years, where the instructors were mostly graduates of Berklee College of Music. We followed a similar curriculum to Berklee’s, though while being interested in jazz in general, I mostly concentrated on afro-american drumming.”
Rudimentally engaged. Wisely syncopated.
“I remember the Alan Dawson “Rudimental Ritual” and his method of interpreting the famous syncopation book as one of the most important learning experiences of that time, along with the Freddie Gruber teachings (I didn’t study directly with him but had very mind opening encounters with Bruce Becker, one of his most famous students). And of course the Bob Moses concepts that you find in the book “Drum Wisdom”, gives you work for years! At that time I remember being hungry for everything that had to do with drums and drumming, constantly researching on the web and trying to learn more. At the same time I was graduating in psychology and did a thesis on “Group percussion and it’s possible applications in the psychologic domain”; this gave me an opportunity to study interesting topics as the origin of music and rhythm, ethnic (mostly african derived) percussive traditions and so on”.
Off to Africa.
“After graduating I studied west african percussion (djembe and dundun) with an african instructor – the great master drummer Dramane Konate – and went to Africa, to Burkina Faso with him two times to refine my craft. Going to Africa was really an important experience for me, at a humanly and musical level; while studying african percussion, I went into the roots of jazz rhythm, and absorbed that feeling, and this definitely changed my way of approaching and playing the drumset. In the meantime, whenever I get a chance, I participated in different workshops and master classes, from jazz to free improvisation. So my studies are very diverse and comes from different sources, and after all, I always feel like self-taught; I mean, school and teachers and workshops can give you great information and inspiration, but in the end it’s your passion and determination that makes you really progress and develop as a musician. There are a lot of different areas to be explored and it is a neverending process of assimilating and interconnecting concepts. Then, you eventually start to mature as a musician. It is ongoing with no end to it. I always feel like a student, always need to feed my curiosity and interest in music.”
Moving to Istanbul. Making friends in the local scene.
“I moved to Istanbul in 2010, and shortly after moving here I started meeting musicians mostly from the jazz scene. With some I played a few times, with others, still collaborating regularly. One of the first musicians I played with was Kaan Mete, who is one of the few gipsy swing guitarists in Turkey. He knows the manouche tradition and plays it skillfully; we did a record titled “L’Apres Midi” released by the famous french manouche label “Hot Club Records”. Another local player is Luis Ernesto Gomez; great tumba player and latin music performer… we’ve been playing together now for about 5 or 6 years. With him, I really progressed in the latin genre, playing bongo and campana in the beginning, then timbales and now drumset. We did a record together in 2013 and probably will do another one in the near future as we are ready with new tunes and a renewed band.
– Asena Akan is another artist I collaborate with quiet often. I recently recorded with her on her album titled “Golden Heart” released by Kalan Müzik in 2016, and now we are promoting the record with live gigs.
– With Deniz Taşar, we did a record called “Uykuda Bir Bulut” released by Kabak&Lin Records in 2016, and we’re working on another one soon to be released. Deniz Tasar’s band has been very much fun to play in. The groove and the sound is coming together nicely.
– Then there is “4 Vokal”, a vocal group made of 2 men and 2 women, with piano, bass, drums and percussion accompaniment. We recorded an album “Başka” in 2016. They sing traditional popular turkish songs, this gives me the possibility to confront myself with the great turkish musical tradition.
– Yavuz Akyazici, the guitar player, is another artist I lately collaborate with.
– Also Eren Coşkuner, a flute player, is another one.
Other fine musicians I shared the stage or the recording studio with are; Alper Yılmaz, great bass player living now in New York; Selen Gülün – a great pianist and composer, now living in Japan; Volkan Hursever, Onder Focan, Yahya Dai, Basak Yavuz, Cyndi Scott… Brian Seeger from New Orleans; Catia Werneck – the brazilian singer from Paris; Chris Bennett and Eric Doney from Los Angeles; Ritchie Flores – tumba master from Puerto Rico; Alekos Vretos – great oud player from Greece; also Bilal Karaman, Senay Lambaoglu just to name a few.
With these artists we played in festivals in Turkey or abroad, and in Istanbul jazz clubs, mainly at “Nardis Jazz Club” (a special thanks to Önder and Zuhal Focan for their efforts in running this exceptional place for many years). Other clubs in Istanbul deserving mentioning are “The Badau” – wonderfully managed by Eren Noyan; SoHo House, Cafe Mitanni, Living Room… kudos to all, for creating and keeping these wonderful venues, for many turkish and foreign musicians to perform in.”
More to Come.
“Just became a father for few months ago, and I’m really enjoying it! My main current occupation for now is “daddy duties” I must say. So I’m in kind of a “recess” mode musically speaking, but not in life! Starting in mid-fall, I will be regularly performing at Nardis jazz Club once a month with Luis Ernesto Gomez and his latin band. There was a Banu Kanibelli recording I was recently a part of – an album called “Yer Gok” – recently came out in July. We will be promoting it, along with the albums by Asena Akan and Deniz Tasar. With Deniz, before the summer, we started to work on some new tunes, which will eventually lead us to the recording of her next album. Also with Gorkem Baharoglu – guitarist, singer and composer – together we have some projects in mind.
Aside from all these, I’m still very active. Periodic percussion workshops at Soho House Club, teaching at some institutions in the city, and private instructions for my students from a variety of levels keep me occupied. So I try to keep busy with the thing I love the most; playing music with wonderful musicians on stage and sharing my passion with others through teaching. I really feel fortunate for all this”.