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Ferit Odman Interview

Vol. 6

"My hands never stopped even I was very young, forks, knives always were on glasses.."

Interview: Damla Yılmaz
How did you get involved with music? 

My hands never stopped even I was very young, forks, knives always were on glasses.. I began music at age 11 with my family’s encouragement. There weren’t any musicians in my family, but they were always interested in arts and music and supporting. One of my older sisters is a painter and the other one is chemical engineer. Everyone has chosen their own path. Thankfully I was born into such a family. Obviously a blessing for a musician. My father had a record collection and always played jazz records at home. For me that was the beautiful music. During the secondary school and high school in Bursa I was in the school orchestra. We used to participate in high school music contests in Istanbul. While we prepared for these at age 13-14, I kept thinking that “I’ll be a musician for sure”. The main point was my visit to Sweden at age 17 with an AFS student exchange program. There, at a small town, I studied at an incredible music department. Upon arrival, they welcomed me with questions such as “which drum brand do you prefer?” and gave me a studio. My entire year there was full with music. I played in the concerts with teachers and was elected to the school’s “big band” and also participated with my teachers in the Swedish Military Band. My entire life and desire was the drum. Some time later my teachers told me “Ferit you shouldn’t pursue other things, you should be a musician”. There I made my final decision to “carry on my life in this business”. When I returned from Sweden there were great teachers such as Can Kozlu, Cengiz Baysal and Donovan Mixon, Ricky Ford from the USA at Bilgi University Department of Jazz. I applied for scholarship and listed second at the entry. Four years later I graduated top second from the department. I was always a good student. While studying, I also played at the Q Jazz Bar and Nardis Jazz Club. Those years went by school during the day and stage at night.. Nardis’ contribution to our generation is very great. We applied what we learned at school there. In the meantime my instructor Cengiz Baysal began sending me to the concerts to which he was unable to attend and I began playing with the important jazz artists such as Onder Focan and Kerem Görsev in Turkiye. Starting from 2006, we continued to play with Kerem Görsev. During those periods I’ve always had the New York love. In 2004 I saved as much as I can and went to the USA for a month to the School for Improvisational Music Workshop. During that one month I fell deeply in love with New York. It was the heart of Jazz. I had the fortune to meet all of my idols and play with them. Upon my return I applied immediately to the Fulbright Scholarship and won full scholarship. I went to William Paterson University in New Jersey. It was a school with best of teachers. I received training at the department headed by Mulgrew Miller. They were the most beautiful two years of my life (Unfortunately we lost him in May 2013,who was one of the pianists which I respected most). I lived New York in real and academic sense. Towards the end of adventure which ended in 2008 and while I was writing my thesis, I recorded my first album Nommo. Bill Goodwin was the producer of my album and also my teacher, and my recording artists were people with Grammy awards, people whose CDs I used to listen. It was something of a dream for me. When I returned at age 26 and joined the military service, found myself playing in the army band. It was of course a minor culture shock. In fact a day prior to and a day later of the military service I played at a concert with Kerem Görsev. Upon return to İstanbul, I rented a place in Galata only forty steps away from the Nardis Jazz Club. Galata’s social texture, the music shops in the tunnel, and concerts make it a perfect place for music. I carried on New York’s West Village life in Istanbul. I returned to the USA in 2010 for my second album, it was released in December 2011 and I especially released this album as a record too. I think my dad whom I lost at age 16 would have enjoyed it very much. This album received four stars in the Downbeat Jazz Magazine. This was a first for an artist from Turkiye and in this respect it had great meaning for me. I give concerts with my own quintet. Last year we played at the North Sea Jazz Festival and I hosted in my group the American trumpet artist Sean Jones. This was a great source of pride for me. Additionally, I received endorsement from Gretsch Drums. The brand I dreamt about while looking at it in my computer as a child, now supports me by supplying their drums as free of charge. I am living my dream but I pursued it furiously and worked very hard.. I have an organized life and possess a character which does not defer today’s work to tomorrow. I value everybody’s project and attend to them with care as if they were mine.

Which was your most unforgettable concert? 

 I shall never forget the concert we gave with Mulgrew Miller in the New York Saint Peter’s Church grounds. This affects me particularly because he is no longer with us. Also, playing with my own quintet at the North Sea Jazz Festival is unforgettable. But, I am grateful for every moment on stage. I am so grateful for this good fortune and so happy that I can maintain my life with it. It feels like I was born to do this. I see it as what I want to do most yet they pay me money on top. For this reason I am constantly aspiring to do it better. This is one of the nicer aspects of being a musician, effort never ceases. We shall work until we die. 

 How do you view Jazz and Jazz listeners in Turkiye? 

Jazz in Turkiye unfortunately means Jazz in Istanbul. Regretfully that’s the point where we are. Istanbul is a city where artists from everywhere come for concerts. If you care enough, you can enjoy Jazz fully year round. Apart from this, festivals held in other cities provide enough for the listeners and they remain apart until the next year’s festivals. In cities such as Antalya, Ankara and Bursa, the Jazz breeze is once a year. However, the listeners of İzmir are incredibly aware and enjoy the music immensely. We leave every concert there with immnse happiness. 

How is Jazz education in Turkiye? 

What is so sad is that the only jazz performance department at the Bilgi University is closed. There is a drum certificate program which I also teach at Bahçeşehir University. But, in Turkiye we need a four year jazz performance school. This is our greatest need. 

 How is your daily routine? 

I have a saturated schedule. My day begins at 11:00 with TRT Bigband rehearsals. There is a concert each month and 3 rehearsals and a recording per week. I play in many groups. If there is a concert, that day goes with a rehearsal, sound check and concert. Although the main group is Kerem Görsev Trio and its projects, I also give concerts with my own quintet. We travel Turkiye and the World. Last month I gave 21 concerts. It is beautiful, I perform and see nice places. I like experimenting fine cuisine and nice places. In terms of sports, having spent my youth in Bursa, I enjoy skiing, I am a licensed skier. I like the adrenalin rush, I enjoy fast skiing. But obviously dangerous sport is something a musician must be cautious about. Apart from these, the big change in my life is my marriage during the last summer. All of a sudden the woman of my life was in front of me and I fell in love. We got married in Bodrum with the accompaniment of our Jazz performer friends and their music. 

Are you interested in design? 

I really like the designs of Erdem Akan. While we were building our own house we spent much time in furniture designs with my wife. We like simple and plain things. Beautiful woodworks of Tardu Kuman(Stoa Design) and the designs of Autoban were our selections The architect of our house is Murat Şanal (SanalArch) as we like all his projects. 

How can your listeners follow you? 

 I think social media is very important for a musician. They can follow me via the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Vol. 6
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