Wednesday, 17 October 2012

After The ACT Jubilee Night Concert in İstanbul on October 7th

I am not going to explain just a concert or a musician in this article because it will be a kind of understatement to write ordinarily what I have lived on October 7th in İstanbul. In fact my consciousness and subconsciousness were continuously moving me back and forth since I have heard about the event. However, you know, things you have faced in real life can sometimes simply exceed what you dream. The last Sunday was just one of such days. (I should mention that I will continue on writing in this lyrical and subjective style throughout the post which is consistent with the spirit of music and explain my dreamy view of things. For anyone having a problem about that and waiting a solid objectiveness such as in soccer reviews, I advise changing the channel.)

I took the flight in the early morning from Ankara (capital of Turkey) to İstanbul. Just after landing on airport I made my way to Arnavutköy quickly. The beautiful reason why I am so excited and being in rush is that I was going to meet founder of ACT, Siggi Loch, for lunch before ACT Jubilee Night Concert. Easier than said, Siggi (Siegfried) Loch has realized his dreams of producing the music he likes by founding ACT, which is one of the most important jazz labels in Europe.  I could not even made a question list but at least I managed to take some notes on my phone. I have had just basic goals in this meeting: preventing myself from getting too excited, trying to listen carefully and not to talk too much. Frankly, I am not quite successful on attaining such goals. Forgive me, I was with my role model and asking for guidance.

Although Siggi Loch has vast experience in music and life, I have found him quite sincere and modest. I mean, I feel like I am not talking with someone who worked with legendary Arif Mardin and Nesuhi Ertegün for Warner Music and founding ACT records company. He became more important for me with his each comment and story about music and musicians. He has not come alone to Turkey, his wife Sissy Loch was with us at the lunch. Both of them liked İstanbul very much. We have talked about our meals, streets and wines. He has mentioned that he fall in love with İstanbul and it’s been 20 years since they last visited İstanbul.

We sometimes remembered the legendary musicians, sometimes talked about new talents during our lunch with creator of ACT. Esbjörn Svensson was the main topic for a long time. According to Siggi Loch, Esbjörn Svensson Trio is the best trio of their era and From Gagarin's Point of View is a very important album in jazz history. We fell in sorrow when he was talking about his passing away and we saw Sissy Loch crying while she was explaining Esbjörn Svensson’s wife and sons. Siggi Loch said “At first, I just decided to finish ACT after Esbjörn passed away but there were lots of new talents in the label. Michael Wollny is especially important for me with his special talent and you will see what I am talking about tonight. After I have considered these, my decision was on continuing.” I felt that pianists are especially important for Siggi Loch. He has explained their musical adventures with Vijay Iyer in detail. We have talked about his last album Accelerando and his success of becoming cover for Downbeat magazine in UK. Iiro Rantala, who is one of the talented new pianists of ACT, was mentioned as possibly the most technically successful pianist of the label so far by Siggi Loch. I have learned that Siggi Loch likes his album Lost Heroes very much just like me.

In order to relief the environment a bit after Esbörn Svensson’s depressing story, I have asked to Siggi Loch the first thing that come into his mind when I say Turkish music. After some trial, we have learned that he has listened to percussionist Burhan Öcal in one of his performance and liked it. When I asked him whether I should stay as a music enthusiast or I can do something professional about music, Siggi Loch started to tell us a fabulous story of jazz world guided with legendary Turkish music producers Arif Mardin and Nesuhi Ertegün. The last days of Nesuhi Ertegün, the East-West label and his Warner Music days... The moment that he said “All these people are Turkish then why not?“ probably is when seeds that will change my life in future are planted in my brain. I have felt a certain self-respect with these important words. We learned that he does not like two things. One is working with musicians whose main concentration is on money and the other one is listening to music while doing something else. I was about to ask him to take me and educate as a disciple but I restrained myself. After that fabulous meeting we have said goodbye to each other to meet again at the concert. Siggi Loch told me that he had a surprise for me at the concert by calling me with my name. While I was trying to decide on whether this is dream or real life, I just shook hands with him and left.

There was another good concert 2 hours before ACT Jubilee Night in İstanbul Lütfi Kırdar Hall. Miles Smiles project gathered many wonderful musicians who are Miles Davis’ students at the same time. We have listened many qualified variations of Miles Davis’ compositions at this concert. The Hammond performance of Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Omar Hakim were highlights of the night. We have faced with a certain reverberation and reflection problem in this concert due to acoustic design of the hall. Thus, the overall effect on the audience was not as good as it should be considering the musicians’ performances. Although the emptiness of the hall approximately to the half of it due to Fenerbahçe-Beşiktaş football match is not important for me, I think the organization should check itself and take it as a feedback.

I have met Siggi Loch and Sissy Loch again between two concerts. Siggi Loch was carrying my gift in his hand which was my surprise. The new album of Wolfgang Haffner, Heart of the Matter, which is not released yet. It is hard for me to explain my feelings at the moment that I took it.

After having a great day and warming up with a good concert it was time for ACT Family Band to be on the stage. Siggi Loch was on the stage just before them. He seemed a bit sorry to have seen the hall is only half-full. However, he has shortly  shared the 20 years history of ACT label by mentioning names of Nesuhi Ertegün and Arif Mardin. He also dedicated the night to them. The concert started with a problem in the microphones and our high energy level is disturbed a bit. I think the reasons were the previous night’s ACT Jubilee concert in Malmö, Sweden and the Miles Smiles project just before this concert preventing the musicians to perform a soundcheck. However we had the wonderful Nils Landgren on the stage. He is someone who knows what to do when and affects people not only with his music but also with his charisma. He managed to save the night and made a perfect intro. He gave a perfect description of a meal to explain the diversity and richness in ACT label all around the world. While Nils Landgren was starting to do that there was just Lars Danielsson on his double bass at the back playing a walking bass instead of his well known lyrical tunes. After that Nils Landgren invited his friends from ACT Family Band one by one: drummer Wolfgang Haffner, pianist Michael Wollny, saxophonist Céline Bonacino, trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, vocalist Caecilie Norby and guitarist Johan Norberg. Each new musician took part in the first piece Family Stew by adding their partitions and in the end, the whole band finished it together. Johan Norberg and Nils Landgren performed a very emotional piece from their nostalgic Chapter Two project called Get Here just after that. Johan Norberg participated in the concert as another famous guitarist of ACT label since the regular member of Family Band Nguyen Le is not with the band. The playlist was very similar to previous ACT Jubilee Nights with some interesting differences: But This One Goes in Four from Ancient History (2012) album of Verneri Pohjola, Zig-zag Blues from Céline Bonacino’s Way of Life album, Lonely Dancer from Michael Wollny, Silent Way from Wolfgang Haffner’s album Shapes, Hymn (from Liberetto) and Pasodoble from Lars Danielsson, Bei mir bist du schoen and Dead Princess from Arabesque (2011) of Caecilie Norby and a Joni Mitchell cover Both Sides from her voice and Stars in Your Eyes from last album of Nils Landgren. 

Performances are given by changing configurations of artists on the stage. Nils Landgren took part in more pieces than what I expected with his velvet soft voice. His tiredness that is obvious from previous night could not prevent him from making incredible trombone solos. The highlights of the performance were the mimics of Lars Danielsson while performing with his double bass, Nils Landgren’s raising arms through the end of the solos and Michael Wollny’s dances with his piano. Once again, the last performance of the band just before the encore was Dodge The Dodo of From Gagarin’s Point of View (1999) of Esbjörn Svensson Trio. The guitar solo intro from Johan Norberg for Dodge the Dodo was incredible. Michael Wollny proved himself again in this extraordinary piece having nice piano partitions. I did not understand whether he danced with the piano or played it. There is a profound and organic connection between his hands and instrument. His cold tone remembering us the Scandinavian tradition was so nice. We continued to remember the legendary Esbjörn at the encore. When Nils Landgren mentioned the name of Esbjörn Svensson the audience responded with applause. Love is Real was created by Esbjörn Svensson Trio and Josh Haden (son of Charlie Haden) in the album Seven Days of Falling (2003) of the trio. It is actually based on the composition Believe, Beleft and Below which is in the same album and lyrics are written and sung by Josh Haden. We have listened Love is Real from Nils Landgren as the main vocal and Caecilie Norby as the side vocal. While Verneri Pohjola is playing the ballad Nils Landgren closed his eyes and Caecilie Norby looked down. We dived into dreams, sorrow, melancholy and asked why again. 

And the concert ended just like that. I have taken lots of autographs on my albums. I almost have all albums of Nils Landgren and Lars Danielsson but the meeting could be realized only after that concert. It was so easy for them to remember me because of my social networking, blogging and my dedication to ACT label. I was like meeting some relatives from my family. 

As a summary I was as happy as I can be. The only huge missing one was Esbjörn Svensson, whom I could not met in this life. However, I am sure that he was on the stage and between us during and after the concert since there are lots of people thinking and dreaming about him. I know that’s a dream but you know, people live what they feel.  

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