By Carlo Wolff | Published January 2022
Mehmet Sanlikol’s immersive An Elegant Ritual passionately melds Western jazz and traditional Turkish music. Recorded live, it displays Sanlikol’s versatility: He sings and plays a Middle Eastern flute called the ney while he plays the piano, making this trio sound bigger than it is.
A keening Sanlikol ushers in “The 7th Day,” the first of five long, symphonic tracks connected by brief interludes and a postlude. Beautiful and strange, it conjures meadows and mountains, Sanlikol’s voice spanning the oracular and trumpet-like scatting.
The ney stars in “Arayis/In Search,” a tune of pliable, non-Western sonorities one might encounter in a Middle Eastern souk. Exotic and seductive, it settles into apprehensive interplay among Sanlikol, bassist James Heazlewood-Dale and drummer George Lernis.
The impulse to sing along rules in “Hasret,” a showcase for Sanlikol’s vocals. Both declamatory and confessional, they are the lasting power behind this memorable album.
The title track starts with drums and Sanlikol’s plangent ney, its woody sound evoking an otherworldly Pied Piper. This bewitching tune stacks sonics from Sanlikol’s ululations to Lernis’ blocky percussion and Indonesian gongs. Its character shifts from formal dance to something darker, more ceremonial. Visualize a minuet, the men in powdered wigs and the women in hoop skirts, in a sandy desert plaza.
The only non-original, “Invitation,” caps this soaring work. The Bronislaw Kaper classic also is the album’s one pure trio foray; no vocals, ney, Turkish drum or Indonesian gongs here. No lack of drama, either.
An Elegant Ritual: Prelude; The 7th Day; Interlude 1; Lost lnside; Interlude 2; Arayis/In Search; An Elegant Ritual; Interlude 3; Hasret: Anadolu Jazz; Postlude; Invitation (55:01)
Personnel: James Heazlewood-Dale, acoustic bass; George Lernis, drums, gongs, bendir; Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, piano, voice, ney.
Ordering Info: sanlikol.com; dunyainc.org