Burhan Ocal & the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Burhan Ocal & the Istanbul Oriental Ensemble


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Turkish multi-instrumentalist Burhan Ocal has performed hand percussion with the Kronos Quartet, made innovative ambient music with German electronic artist Pete Namlook, played a twangy oud in an international band led by jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul, and teamed with electric bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma--a ferociously funky player who for many years was a member of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time--to record Groove Alla Turca (Doublemoon), which allowed superb jazz players like trumpeter Jack Walrath and trombonist Art Baron to solo at length over grooves laid down by Turkish Gypsy musicians and the rhythm section from Tacuma's band. But despite musical experience that spans the globe, Ocal has never abandoned his roots. Over the years he's made numerous albums that celebrate traditional music, but no project reflects this interest better than his Istanbul Oriental Ensemble, a killer instrumental sextet that plays the polyrhythmic dance music of Turkey's Rom population. In this outfit Ocal sticks to percussion, giving a propulsive kick to precise lines played in unison on oud, violin, clarinet, and kanun (a trapezoidal zither). Some of the melodies are bright and jaunty and some rhapsodically sad, but the microtonality of maqamat, the elaborate modal system that governs Middle Eastern music, imbues all of them with melancholy. The group's repertoire has grown beyond traditional material to include originals written and performed with fidelity to the classic form. Its most recent album, Caravanserai (Network, 2001), is something of a concept album about the ancient Middle Eastern equivalent of a truck stop. Friday, October 17, 8 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; 312-362-9707.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michel Comte.

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