Tamer Temel (tenor and soprano saxophone), Ercüment Orkut (piano) and Cem Aksel (drums), three esteemed musicians of the Turkish jazz scene, came together and released their album “Töz” through A.K. Müzik. The album was recorded in one go, without any pauses and has the pieces intertwine with each other through individual or collective improvizations just like the trio’s concerts. The recording was done in a studio with audience present. “Töz” includes pieces, which include improvizations, and interlude transitions and all the compositions except or the piano, drums and saxophone interludes belong to Tamer Temel. Sound engineer Jordi Vidal, who has worked with names like Brad Mehldau, Compay Segundo and Avishai Cohen, did the mix and mastering of “Töz”, which was recorded at ITU MIAM. The cover visuals belong to Sedat Girgin. We interviewed Tamer Temel and Ercüment Orkut to talk about this magnificent album for the first time.
You emerged as Töz Trio, maybe you still are, but we see “Töz” as the title of the album instead of the name of the trio. Where is Töz Trio?
Tamer Temel: Töz is both the name of the album and the band. We started out with my name initially but the interaction between the band members and the way we interpret pieces lead to us having our own name. The pieces I wrote were for the project that was supposed to be with Türker Özşekerli when we started out. This is why the trio ended up being called Töz.
Did you design those interludes while writing the pieces that come before and after them?
TT: Initially yes, I planned the interludes and thought I would write the plan I had in mind if the interludes ended up not what I expected. But as we played, as we got to know each other in this musical atmosphere, we started to get better results and I didn’t have to write them down.
Some pieces have solo saxophone, piano and drum improvizations inbetween and some have trio improvizations. How did you decide the frequency of the melodic connections?
Ercüment Orkut: One of the things I really like about Töz is that we can talk about the music and shape it, discuss about it as much as we practice through playing. Our preference during the transitions is a result of this communication. We always talk about each of our performances and discuss what would give better or worse results and decide what to do during the next performance accordingly. But the doors are open if we wish to join in on each other’s parts.
TT: Who would play the interludes was decided by picking what we like and dislike during this process. There are free parts that we decided should be in a particular way but none of them are set in stone. We try to be brave without damaging the concentration and integrity of the music in that moment, and we instead aim to take it to other levels and improve.
The album draws to an end with a great coda that summarizes Töz’s epic and lyrical character. How did this prologue come about?
TT: Coda was actually the final piece to be composed. We previously used pieces that would convey this feeling, then I wrote this piece that we thought was necessary. I feel good about this closing.
How does a saxophonist mostly writing pieces with piano in mind for a trio translate practically into a flow?
TT: It might be about loving the piano music and its possibilities. Even though it started with writing for the piano, it ended up being directly written for the trio. I think using and researching about the piano’s textural touches was effective in this. When we have such a musician like Ercüment who can make anything we wish to try come to life and take it even further by your side, everything becomes even more enjoyable.
The pieces have names like “1dir1”, “3üz” and “2ndi”. Why did you opt for titles that make numerical puns?
TT: I had more or less formed the music in my head, and I thought I would go on with the numbers when I wrote them in this order and enjoyed naming them as such.
One of the recording days out of three took place with live audience present. Are there any pros or cons to include the audience factor to a music that is dominated by improvization?
EO: We actually did the audience recording day to experience the difference. We performed this music in one go to the audiences during our concerts. There are advantages and disadvantages of a sterile studio atmosphere compared to playing a concert. We wanted to experience them all and chose the one that feels right to us.
TT: We were actually really curious about this before the recording. And we wanted to take this risk and see its results. How it would affect us and what the differences would be. I don’t think it affected us negatively, maybe the opposite. We had already played the other recordings the same way without pausing. The concerts were the same way, I think our concentration increased in this process and I think we achieved severing all our connections except for the three of us when we play.
The technical level of the album is as high as the performance level. What are the things that distinguish Jordi Vidal’s signature?
TT: We recorded the album in a way that could be somewhat hard to mix, without using headsets and we stood really close in the studio as we would on the stage to hear each other better. Therefore arranging the mics were a tough subject and all the sounds intertwined on all of them. But Jordi is especially experienced with acoustic music. He managed to create a great sound. He made the intertwining sounds on the microphones sound like as if we were on the stage or even better, instead of dealing with them as a problem. I also would like to mention and thank Cem Çatık who did the recording here.
Töz chose Sedat Girgin’s illustration Galileo instead of working on a visual for the album. What is the connection between this visual and the music?
TT: I think we would like to leave making a connection between the cover visual and music to the audience. We already admire Sedat Girgin as an illustrator. We had already looked at his work while thinking about the album cover, and we then had a great communication with Girgin. We really like this Galileo series and wanted to use it instead of creating something from scratch and he did the design himself.
Will we ever hear the interludes as they are recorded in the album during any of the Töz concerts?
EO: I don’t think so. Even though the ending of a piece and the beginning of the next one are known, and creating a balanced transition between these two points is a requirement, I always am motivated by what I could do different every time we play. What we played until we got to that interlude also are other criteria and materials.
TT: Not directly, but this is what is great about it. There could be a different atmosphere every time and this forces us to be more concentrated and fresh.
Are there other projects in the world that parallel Töz’s ideas and sound?
TT: There are! There are a lot of names who influenced us but somehow Töz’s unique sound had formed or is forming. To name them, I personally am influenced and motivated by musicians like Matt Mitchell, Steve Lehman, Tyshawn Sorey, Ligeti, Vijay İyer, Ercüment Orkut, Cem Aksel and David Virelles. For example, Fieldwork makes piano, saxophone and drum music like us and they greatly influence us.