Album Review of
An Elegant Ritual

Written by Joe Ross
July 18, 2021 - 11:17pm EDT
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With a style that blends East and West, Turkish American composer, pianist, vocalist Mehmet Ali Sanlıkol creates a unique jazz aesthetic that also is respectful of authentic traditions. An Elegant Ritual is a trio project that Sanlıkol has wanted to record for quite some time, and he enlisted the support of  James Heazlewood-Dale (bass) and George Lernis (drums, gongs, bendir).  With a vision to stretch the boundaries of sound conception and broaden the spectrum of the typical jazz trio, Sanlıkol also incorporates elements of Indonesian gamelan music (gongs), as well as using his voice as a natural extension of his stellar musicianship. When interesting modes, rhythmic cycles and fluid dynamics are applied, the result becomes an articulate conversation and atmospheric musical journey. With everything played live, I was particularly impressed by the compositions that feature Sanlıkol playing both piano and ney, the wooden flute that has a mystical role in Turkish music.

A principle component of Turkish classical music is that of the Sufi Mevlevi sect (also known as the whirling dervishes). Founded in the thirteenth century, the movement believed in music as a spiritual and meditative contact with God.  An Elegant Ritual is modeled after the structure of a Sufi whirling dervish ritual (ayin), with influences from John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” As you listen to this enchanting music, you may also be moved to do a spinning dance with one hand turned towards earth and the other towards heaven. Sanlıkol would be pleased to know that you understand his music as a medium between the two. Closing with a haunting eight-minute cover of Bronisław Kaper and Paul Francis Webster’s “Invitation,” the trio invites you to join An Elegant Ritual that certainly provides a fascinating, organic, worldly extension of the jazz idiom.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)