Onur Aymergen Quintet – ‘Lunar’

Front cover photo by Geir Hareide Andersen. Cover design by Max Franosch

Turkey’s relation with stringed instruments has a long line of folkloric musical tradition but its relation to the modern guitar has more to do with the emulations of the post-1945 born Western-centric generations, having a partially parallel evolution with jazz history. Starting with the 1950’s a handful of passionate Turkish jazz guitar players had to develop their knowledge and experience solely by themselves and those who were lucky to go through with playing and observing jazz in the West, carried that information over to Turkey.

Onur Aymergen’s album may be a fresh new addition to the archive of Turkish jazz guitar albums but it is also definitely a carrier of the accumulation of a historically combatful legacy to which he is a contributing force, adding his unique sound to the fold. I intend to view dear Aymergen’s original guitar voice as a part of his identity. The elegance of his tone is a reflection of himself in the mirror.

(album liner notes by Feridun Ertaşkan translated by Gökhan Aya)

‘Yeditepe’ gets the album underway with what sounds like a gentle, straight-ahead jazz introduction to the compositions of Onur Aymergen but then the tempo and tone shift to show a more expansive style of writing. Can Çankaya plays some fluid piano lines with the driving beat of Turgut Alp Bekoğlu keeping things moving forward. Onur Aymergen takes over on the melody with some well controlled runs across the fretboard before Tolga Bilgin adds a very nice tonal variation to the proceedings. This is very good trio playing in terms of the melody with support from a two piece rhythm section. ‘Spring’ captures the essence of the season well: bright, fresh and clean with well placed trumpet and bass tones to temper the tonal palette. Apostolos Sideris gets to show his bass playing skills here and, again, Can Çankaya plays some very nicely phrased piano lines – as does guitarist Onur Aymergen.

Track three, ‘Hüseyni’, has a more contemporary sound compared to the opening two numbers. There is an edge to the number, less melodic and more improvisational in style. I like the contrast and the interplay between the musicians, each adding their own voice without dismissing what is being played around them. ‘Lunar Part I’ comes across as an introduction to ‘Lunar Part II’ and, as one might expect from the titles, the sound opens out, becomes more spacious with touches of the ethereal. I particularly enjoyed the bass playing underneath the piano lines and then the guitar lines that contrasted nicely in the upper register.

‘Winter’ links back to ‘Hüseyni’ in style but pushes the improv feel further. This is highlighted by the way Tolga Bilgin prods and pokes with the trumpet against the flowing guitar lines. The bass, percussive piano, and drums anchor the overall structure of the number. ‘African Ballad’ opens with the gorgeously toned trumpet from Tolga Bilgin. Sideris adds bowed bass to the mix before the piano picks up the melody with a guitar backing adding another layer to the tune. The trumpet then takes over changing the soundscape yet again. This track has so much going on in terms of tonal variations and textures but never sounds cluttered and the added wordless vocals towards the end of the track top it all off very nicely indeed.

Lunar comes to a close with ‘Northern Lights’, another contemporary jazz number that emphasizes just how well this quintet communicate with each other and the listener. This is an atmospheric piece played with a sophisticated refinement that reflects the beauty of nature’s light show in the northern hemisphere. This is the standout track on the album, the way it is written and played is a joy. The quality of the trumpet playing, which sets the tone of the piece, is very good but that quality is passed through this wonderful quintet who bring this very good album to a close with elegance and style.

Lunar is out on the Losen Records label.

Musicians: Onur Aymergen – guitar; Can Çankaya – piano; Tolga Bilgin – trumpet; Apostolos Sideris – double bass; Turgut Alp Bekoğlu – drums.

Tracklist: 1. Yeditepe. 2. Spring. 3. Hüseyni. 4. Lunar Part I. 5. Lunar Part II. 6. Winter. 7. African Ballad. 8. Northern Lights.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.