Friday, February 15, 2013

Alaturka (Turkish Jazz)

I had the good fortune of hearing live jazz in January for the Jazz Winterlude series at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. Once I heard that Alaturka would be playing Turkish jazz, I made the point of freeing my calendar and convincing my family to join me. Alaturka has released one album. The current members of Alaturka, composed of Beau Bledsoe on oud, Rich Wheeler on tenor saxophone, Jeff Harshbarger on bass, and Brandon Draper on percussion, have an album coming out sometime in the near future.

They were only scheduled to play for an hour but managed to expand their set a little more because of audience demand and the open time slot immediately afterwards. Rich Wheeler opened the set with the equivalent of the muezzin's call to prayer on his saxophone before the rhythm section joined him. It was particularly interesting to hear how the band adapted Ottoman melodies.

Beau Bledsoe in an interview online says that he sees himself and Brandon Draper representing the Turkish element while Rich Wheeler and Jeff Harshbarger represent the jazz element. My wife was particularly impressed with the rhythmic talents of Brandon Draper who manages to play four or five percussive instruments at the same time, using a drum kit that he designed himself.

Beau Bledsoe is able to support himself exclusively by playing for four or five different ensembles, like so many other musicians in bigger cities. In fact, Jeff Harshbarger, Brandon Draper, and Rich Wheeler are all involved in other projects. We are lucky that their talents come together when Alaturka performs. I am looking forward to their upcoming album.