Monday, 11 March 2013

Antonio Forcione Trio, Sketches of Africa Concert in 16th Ankara Jazz Festival, March 9th 2013

This review is about an incredible performance of a virtuoso. We went to listen to famous guitarist Antonio Forcione and his band on March 9th to Bilkent Concert Hall for the last concert of 16th Ankara Jazz Festival, in which Forcione played his latest album Sketches of Africa with Anselmo Netto on percussion and Matheus Nova on acoustic bass. I listened to this album’s concert last year in Edinburgh in Fringe Festival with a different band. It was certainly a great performance. I could also find the time to listen to the album several times. As mentioned by Antonio Forcione during the concert, he has decided to record such an album after staying in Africa for a while whose musical texture impressed him. I am sure that his percussive style has a profound contribution on this impression.

The concert has started with a very famous solo performance of Antonio Forcione, Heartbeat. This was indeed the perfect entrance. I think the master said to us “The instrument in my hand is my beloved friend and I know every detail about it.” I suppose, this performance, during which Forcione used the guitar like a percussion instrument, impressed the audience deeply. On Antonio Forcione’s musician friends coming to the stage, we listened to the emotional and tranquil composition from the album called Tar. Following this, Stay Forever again from the album is performed successfully. The next piece is introduced by Antonio Forcione as follows: “I can’t think of making an album about Africa without him: Nelson Mandela. He jives when he is happy. This song is dedicated to him: Madiba’s Jive“. Madiba is the name of the Xhosa tribe that Mandela belongs to. I really liked the percussion performance in this performance. Anselmo Netto is a kind of percussionist that can play different things with foot and knees together. After entertaining and joyful Madiba’s Jive we have listened to the piece written for people of Zimbabwe: Song for Zimbabwe. Then there came Alhambra which is written by Antonio Forcione for Alhambra Palace. It was a marvelous acoustic performance. In an instant he pulled the upper most string of the guitar far away from the others and created more modal and mystical sounds by tightening and loosening it. Through to the end of the concert Pata Pata which is made famous by Miriam Makeba, a piece composed for a village from North Africa and Africa from the album Sketches of Africa album are played consecutively. The last piece before the encore was the energetic Maurizio’s Party. In my opinion, Maurizio’s Party was an unforgettable performance for Ankara audience. Antonio Forcione, positioned the guitar horizontally on his lap and used it as a percussion instrument sometimes by hard sometimes by soft touches. More than that, he kept rhythm by sliding it on its strings back and forth. Then there started a duello between Anselmo Netto and Antonio Forcione. Anselmo Netto has given up this duello after he has seen that some typewriter like sound is coming from the guitar of Antonio Forcione. Forcione even played main theme of Strangers in the Night by showing a couple sitting on the front seats. This performance is applauded for a very long time.
For the encore, the virtuoso came to the stage alone and gave a perfect Touch Wood performance. Just before playing the piece, Antonio Forcione expressed his important ideas about Erkan Oğur and Turkish Music. We have learned that he could get the chance to play together with Erkan Oğur when he was at İstanbul for a concert and they have played together for three hours in a room. This is mentioned as one of the most important experiences in Antonio Forcione’s music life by himself. He also mentioned his admiration to the level of musicianship in Turkey which he has seen during the workshops. Forcione told us that he was pushing Turkish music for every guitar festival he knows all around the world. We were proud to hear such beautiful words from such a virtuoso about our musicians.

Bilkent Concert Hall is an acoustic hall with high ceilings designed mainly for orchestral performances which do not need amplification. I have very bad experiences before during some jazz concerts held in this hall in which the volume is too high and the reverb is wild. Frankly, I was frightened to go to this hall on March 9th but what we hear destroyed my prejudgments. The volume level was perfectly set and it seems that the reverberant hall is considered and the microphone placements were successfully made according to this. 

Kerem Görsev Trio & Alan Broadbent & Ernie Watts, Therapy Concert in 16th Ankara Jazz Festival, March 7th 2013

There is a lot to say about Kerem Görsev Trio, Alan Broadbent and Ernie Watts concert held in March 7th in Ankara within 16th Ankara Jazz Festival. I think I can describe this two and a half hour long event as a jazz feast. Kerem Görsev has recorded the album Therapy, which includes his own compositions and Kamil Özler’s arrangements, with this band and London Philharmonia Orchestra in Abbey Road Studios in 2010.The album, which I really liked, is reintroduced with concerts to the Turkish audience with concerts in İstanbul, İzmir and Ankara after three years. I am sure that jazz listeners have already known that Alan Broadbent and Ernie Watts are very important jazz musicians and they gave many artistic products to the jazz world especially when they are together with  Charlie Haden Quartet West. We see the great Turkish drummer Ferit Odman and successful double bass player Kağan Yıldız in Kerem Görsev Trio for many years. I am really impressed by the performance of these two young musicians in the album. I should remind you that Ferit Odman has two albums called Nommo and Autumn in New York in which he worked with many great jazz musicians from America. I should also mention that Orkestra Akademik Başkent accompanied to our jazz musicians for the concert.

I went to Meb Şura Hall this time on foot, different than my routine travel by car. Why did I give this much detail? Because, I remembered suddenly the name of the album while I was getting nervous by the noisy chaos during this walk: Therapy. I just said myself: “Relax, you’re gonna be OK in the concert”. I became OK indeed as soon as the first note is played. Ferit Odman is at the most left, Kağan Yıldız is just next to him, Kerem Görsev is right at the middle, Ernie Watts is forefront, slightly right and Alan Broadbent is at the back conducting his orchestra. 

The first performance of the concert was beautiful Diversion from Therapy, which gave also the name to one of the previous albums. We then listened to the Flashback, which is composed as a homage to Kerem Görsev’s Dalmatian dog, Bebop. The perfect solo performance and beautiful ghost notes of Ernie Watts accompanied by swing of Ferit Odman, were worth listening and watching. I found the Orkestra Akademik Başkent a bit inadequate in some parts, which may result from my album’s record experiences. The third piece is performed in quartet formation. I am not sure whether it is necessary to say but Ernie Watts’ phrasings were just perfect. I really liked the solo by Kerem Görsev, their energetic dialog with Ernie Watts and the linking made by Ferit Odman in this dialogue. After that, we listened to Simple Life from the album Therapy. The string partitions are very dominant in this piece. The hall turned from a jazz club to a classical music hall from time to time during night, as mentioned by Kerem Görsev. Kerem Görsev asked Alan Broadbent to play the piano after the Captivation performance from Therapy. Just after that, Kerem Görsev sit together with the audience to watch the performance which started with soft touches of Alan Broadbent, continued with a lesson from Ernie Watts on instrument control and finished by a solo by Kağan Yıldız. Alan Broadbent has played Star Eyes to us next. Ferit Odman managed very well the linking between Ernie Watts and Alan Broadbent. 

The concert has continued with two performances from the album: Therapy and Story Teller as a homage to Oğuz Durukan. I really liked the harmony between orchestra and the other musicians in this piece. Then, a piece from a new album that will soon be recorded is performed: Tribute to Bill Evans. The performance is started with accompaniment of the orchestra to the solo of Alan Broadbent and continued with Kerem Görsev. The instant that alan Broadbent gave a sign to the orchestra when leaving the piano for conducting and arrival of Kerem Görsev to the instrument by tiptoeing was a remarkable and joyful one. After this beautiful piece a homage to İlhan Mimaroğlu called Letter to Mimaroğlu is played. Ferit Odman’s solo initiated by Ernie Watts’ sign in the next performance was awesome. I think he is among the best jazz drummers in Turkey with this wonderful touches and instrument control. 

Through the end, we listened to a great Body and Soul solo from Alan Broadbent and two pieces from the album: Sunday and Meeting Point. The enthusiasm has risen with the scene that Kerem Görsev and Alan Broadbent were playing the piano together at the last piece before the encore. After a long applause, the musicians came to the stage for a great encore. The encore started with Alan Broadbent’s solo and continued as duo with Ernie Watts. Then it is linked to the solo performances of Ferit Odman and Kağan Yıldız by Kerem Görsev sitting right next to Alan Broadbent. It was obvious that these master musicians get impressed by our young musicians’ solos. The musicians are applauded for a long time by the audiences after the concert. As a summary, it was a memorial concert for International Ankara Jazz Festival. 

The sound was fairly good although I generally do not like Meb Şura Hall’s acoustic. I think the panels on the background of the stage have a profound contribution on that. The volume level was set suitable for the music style. However, I sometimes heard the cymbals from the corners of the ceiling with a half-second delay. Even considering that, I should remind that it was a successful acoustic result what is did on March 7th Meb Şura Hall. (I think the most successful result I have heard so far in Meb Şura is achieved in Dhafer Youssef Quartet Concert held lately again in this jazz festival. What I understood from this experience is that even architecturally bad designed halls can sound at least “not bad” when the best work is done during audio check.)