We cannot help but feel hopeful when new colleagues enter our small but happy jazz circle, which revolves around musicians, listeners, producers, labels, organizators and facilitators. Cazzip Project won the Young Jazz competition five years ago during the 21th Istanbul Jazz Festival and waited to mature before releasing their first album “Stories” to become one of the strong sources of the aforementioned hope. It is important to note that this album isn’t only promising as merely a new jazz album, but also as a great new album. There is another aspect to “Stories”, an album that consists of unique and complex compositions performed by three talented and young musicians, that is just as important. TMC, which hadn’t released a jazz album before, took a very valuable first step by shouldering the responsibility of a genre that is outside the boundaries of the mainstream. Let’s give our thanks to everyone responsible in the production and the lease of this album, and hear out what Aslı Özer (piano), Erhan Ertetik (bass) and Ertuğrul Biber from Cazzip Project have to say.
You officially debuted Cazzip Project by winning the Young Jazz Competition during the 21st Istanbul Jazz Festival, but let’s hear how you three met and got together.
Aslı Özer: I worked with Güç Gülle one on one on the subject of jazz theory. Erhan (Ertetik) and Ertuğrul (Biber) were his students in MMA (Modern Music Academy). Güç Gülle knows all of us. He knows the pieces I write, my style and my strong points. I had some compositions at hand and they needed to be played as a trio or a quartet. He knew whose energy would be good for them and called me one day to say “There are some great kids at MMA, you have to meet them, I will introduce you right away.” Ertuğrul wasn’t there in the beginning but I was so thankful that he ended up joining us. We met and did a rehearsal. I had “7 Motions” ready then. We wanted to let it sink in since it is a complex piece and so it did.
I hear micro tones in “7 Motions” and i call them the Güç Gülle touch. It can be felt through the album.
Erhan Ertetik: Of course there are our teacher’s touches. There is a swing part in “7 Motions”. Aslı likes melodic and harmonic structures, as well as rhythm changes. So does Güç Gülle. This is close to our music. And we played well during the rehearsals in which our teacher was present.
Aslı: The influence of Güç there is adding that swingy part or enriching the drum solo; but what is invaluable is that he brought us together as a knowledgable and prominent mentor and that he motivates us. After we pulled off “7 Motions” well, we decided that this is our band and went on with it.
I voiced my opposition to the band being called Cazzip from the start. If we were to talk about calling jazz projects with a named that include ‘jazz’, why isn’t this project called at least Jazzip or even Cazip?
Aslı: We have frequently discussed the presence of two ‘z’s there. We wanted to combine “cazibe” (which means “appeal”) with the two z’s of jazz. For example, we observed the positive feedback of the audience during Young Jazz. They kept up with the rhythm. We heard comments like “It is an appealing project” and such, there are video recordings. But Ertuğrul has different opinions as well:
Ertuğrul Biber: I thought of it as Caz-zip. Just like the compressed zip files. Because we always send the pieces as zip files to each other. As it usually goes. It is hard to come up with a name.
Are we pronouncing “HIP” as hip? HIP was the first piece that pulled me in due to my affinity to listening to wind instruments, even though I like the trio sound and the pieces are arranged well as a whole. How did you come up with the wind sound there?
Aslı: “HIP” actually stands for Hands In the Pocket. Erhan thought it was too long and we decided to call it as such.
Erhan: The initial arrangement of the piece was entirely different. It started out as a different piece. We worked on the melody of another piece and while working on part B, we thought it didn’t suit us and that we should change it a bit. It was groovy back then as well but we needed to adapt it to our own sound. Aslı wrote a beautiful melody to follow the intro. Then we wondered how brasses would sound. The brass instruments could be heard when we directly played it as well. We played as a trio again but we decided to record it with brasses. Samet Kocamemiş played really well during the recording session, sending him our thanks.
The bass walk in “Blue Days”, another favorite of mine, is magnificent.
Erhan: “Blue Days” is actually our hardest piece. It is an odd time piece in 7/8 but it changes a lot, and is very intense emotionally. It doesn’t matter how well you play unless you can convey these emotions. This matters a lot to us, especially while on the stage. I played a fretless bass there, that’s why it caresses the soul a bit.
Aslı: It applies to all the pieces. There is a different piano walk in “Blue Days”. There is an incredible crescendo behind the bass solo for example, Ertuğrul fills that up differently and Erhan plays amazingly.
I can say the same for the other pieces. They progress layer by layer emotionally and structurally and this can easily be heard.
Aslı: I think this is one of Cazzip’s characteristics. A melody emerges from another melody; a rhythm from another rhythm. For example, “HIP” is a 4/4 piece but it has a 6/8 part as well and that changed the soul of it. We try to achieve this as naturally as possible, and we love it for this reason. The changes in rhythm can easily be felt in “7 Motions” and “Blue Days” in this sense. How can we transcend the boundaries and how to make this feel natural… We play with things, take them out of their boxes and put them on trial.
Ertuğrul: However, it takes time for them to sound natural, it requires preparation. Neutralizing it an entirely different subject as well.
I have a question for Erhan and Ertuğrul. You work with artists like Kıraç, Gülşen and Bora Öztoprak. I don’t see this as something negative but I wonder; how do you achieve the emotional and technical switch between pop and jazz when their pros and cons are concerned?
Erhan: There are times when it is tough. Some days I get a text that says “We will play this and that by Sezen Aksu tonight” while I am deciphering Charlie Parker or Coltrane. This is the reality of life but it can bring the motivation down a bit. From a more positive perspective; pop music improves the abilities of a musician such as the talent to accompany musicians you don’t really know or pieces you don’t really know while playing at a bar. This is beneficial to me because I play in a lot of studio recordings. It is an area in which we apply the things we practice. We are more of accompanying musicians there but here we are soloists as well.
Ertuğrul: Of course it has its pros, it is a bit more tiring. It is more like a job, what you have to do are predetermined, in addition to the tiring aspects of nightlife. There isn’t much musical freedom. But it has its own pleasant aspects. Both are great. I would have liked to accompany Michael Jackson but if you were to ask me why I love jazz I would say due to its freedom. Jazz is life.
That’s a great topic. Who would you like to play with, living or dead; local or international?
Ertuğrul: Sting as well. I would have liked to be in Ben Wittman’s place.
Erhan: I would have prefered Gil Scott. I admire him. I was listening to his work the other day at 7-8 in the morning.
To switch to focus back to Aslı, we have a lot of female vocalists who write their own lyrics but there are only a few instrumentalists. I think there is a great deficiency there.
Aslı: I actually started playing classical music on the piano when I was six years old. I had a period when I turned my back on the piano and focused on the vocals. I didn’t play the piano for two years. Then I came back to it. I used to listen to progressive music back then. Dream Theater widened my vision. I felt really free when I started playing jazz. Classical music is a wide field as well but you have seven octaves there. I got to learn about myself when I stepped outside the boundaries. It feels different when I go low, and it feels like something else when I go high; it is an incredible feeling. I realized I had to really focus on my instrument when I started to find my own self. I have many people I am influenced by, Hiromi for example. She is incredibly energetic and so am I. I could play the piano until its keys are broken. That emotional intensity freed me. About the more serious aspects—there is a very fundamental lack there. We need to have confidence in ourselves.