Artists have always had a very different aura. Most particularly, the musicians… They live their lives melodically. Famous jazz musician Kerem Gorsev is like that as well. Although his biggest passion is music, he has different passions of course. For instance, the sea and the classic American automobiles… Gorsev who says “Every jazz song has its own story and a secret hero” tells his own story this time. In the morning, which is the nicest time of the Bosphorus in Istanbul, I went to Emirgan with extremely melodic happiness with my fingers tapping out on the wheel. After all, I was going to a pretty melodic house. To make an interview with a musician who I admire…
With his musicianship and life, who else would be the cover subject of Noble & Royal magazine rather than Kerem Gorsev? As you enter the house, the relaxing ambience of jazz music surrounds you immediately. The house has a different aura. Peaceful… Kerem Gorsev is waiting for us by the stairs. But before him, a huge piano meets us. I say “Wow!” like a child who just saw a magic stuff. A piano, CF III S Concert Grand… “It has a whole different sound”, he says. Also, there is another one in the other room: C 5. As the phrase goes, Kerem Gorsev is a musician who started the music life in his mother’s womb. Gorsev comes from a family with a father who has more than 5.000 records, a maternal uncle who plays violin, an uncle who plays piano and an aunt who plays mandolin and sings. He is a fan of Alan Broadbent… His idol is Bill Evans.
Gorsev is telling… His life which began with music, how he met his wife, Istanbul in his childhood, New York, his dreams, his passion of classic automobiles and the sea… A thoughtless conversation… Like we are friends for 40 years… He turns to me for a moment and he asks me this time: “Do you know what jazz is like?”… “Seeing the world… A view of life”, he says. One of the most attention-grabbing things during the conversation was Gorsev’s pride that he takes in his wife. “My wife is so clever”, he says. When Mrs. Pınar returns to Turkey from America in May, 1995, he records an album dedicated to her: “I love May”. Yes, this month’s cover belongs to Kerem Gorsev whose dreams never end. The sound of his piano that he played is still in my ears… Welcome to our interview with so many notes… Music first!
You have released the album “Therapy” most recently. What kind of story does this album have?
Yes, Therapy has been released recently. It’s an album that we have recorded with London Philharmony in Road Studios under the direction of Alan Broadbent. Last summer, there were concerts abroad. I went to New York in November. I found Alan Boradbent again. He is a legend. I go to New York every year. I love there. Its smell, style, jazz musicians… New York is another world with regards to jazz. “Let’s find Turkish coffee and baklava for me”, said Alan to me. We found Gulluoglu in New York. A joyous conversation… I had a dream. Dreams never end after all. It was about Alan Broadbent to arrange my music and compositions… By the way, Alan Broadbent is the orchestra director of Diana Kroll. He has countless Grammy awards… Last week, Paul McCarthy’s album has been released. All the arrangements were done by Alan. He is the greatest living legend in the world. He gave me a song. I said “Alan, I would like you to write the whole album”. After a 2.5-month workout, he arranged all my compositions. I mean, this album has an important story for me.
Are there other projects that you pursue your dreams, for soon?
Of course… There’s a pianist who is a legend for me, Bill Evans. He is a man I adore. He died. The name for the album in my mind is “Tribute to Bill Evans”. Alan Broadbent adores him as well.
When do you think to release this album?
I guess, it will be released in May, 2013.
There is also a project that I wrote in Quinted – 2 winds and 3 people – format. I have a project called Coltrane. John Coltrane’s… And there is one of the legendary pianists of the world, George Herring, who died last year at the age of 92. I had an opportunity to meet him before his death. Therefore, I have a project named “Tribute to George Herring”. I mean, there are 3 projects ready to be recorded in my library. I want to record my Quinted album in America towards the end of this year.
Except the albums, you were at JS’ Jazz Center some time – long ago –. Are you planning to manage a club again?
I will never do anything except music in my life again. It’s not easy to run the art and the commerce at the same time. I don’t have the energy to spare there. I’m a person who supervises his business as extremely serious and sensitive but you should go after that work well-disciplined. And this takes your energy away. You have no strength and happiness left to open the cover of the piano. I was born as a musician. I entered the conservatory at the age of 6. My first toy was a wall piano. I’m very glad that I’m a musician. From now on, I play piano in only concert halls and culture centers. 4 years have passed after I left playing in the clubs. I am disturbed when someone eats, drinks, walks and runs in front of me. It’s also technically difficult. I need concert grand for example… People who want to listen to us will buy tickets, concentrate for 1.5 hours and they will leave happily. That’s the point. In addition, I have a program in Joy FM in the last 1.5 months. It’s between 11.00-12.00 on Sundays and at 9.00 on Wednesday evenings. Also, there is a program named “Jazz with Kerem Gorsev”.
Your saying, “I was born as a musician” already summarizes everything. Well, what about your meeting with music? What’s the first source of this love?
My meeting with classical music took place when I was in my mother’s womb. My father had 5.000 records. When my mother was pregnant, those records had been used to be played. We used to listen to classical music in our childhood. It was in early 1960s. My maternal uncle was a painter and used to play violin. My uncle used to play piano, my aunt used to play mandolin and sing very nice. Johnny Holiday, Beatles… I had been accompanying them when I was 3 or 4. Then, they have understood that I had a musical aptitude. So, I entered Istanbul Municipality Conservatory in 1967. I was going to both first class and conservatory. When State Conservatory has been opened in 1972, I transferred there. I was there until 1978.
What was your first instrument then?
Piano… I passed to violin later. I played viola some time.
Which one has impressed you mostly?
Piano… Not to say, the one behind me… (Pointing CF III S Concert Grand)
When jazz music perforated in your heart?
In the middle of the 1970s, my big brother was studying in the academy in Findikli. He had a lot of painter friends who used to listen to jazz. Ali Arif Erten, painter and photograph artist, was the first one to make me listen to a jazz album. After that, Bill Evans became my guru. There are 89 Bill Evans albums inside. And his books… By listening to the music of all of the legendary jazz pianists – Oscar Peterson etc… – the joy of life inside me began to glow. I have decided that I love this music. After that, my education of classical music became unfavourable. I began to love jazz. Do you know what jazz is like? Seeing the world… A view of life…
Is there any arts branch that you’re interested in except music?
No. But I love arts in general. Also, I’m interested in archaeology. The civilizations… I love the change of history and the stories over there. Wherever we go in the world with my wife and child, we visit museums first. Music needs passion. And the musicians are passionate people.
Do you have another passion except music?
Music and jazz are apart but I have a passion for piano. Piano is a perfect object for me. When I see concert grands side to side, they look like the submarines of navy lined in the sea to me. Also, I have a passion for automobiles.
Classic… I love American classics. I drove American cars so much. I didn’t have a collection but I always had 1 or 2 American cars. Some of them were really special. You remember the movie Rain Man. I had the car in that movie. Alinur Velidedeoglu wanted that car and I gave it to him. I had Mustang, Transam, Pontiac, Thunderbird. My last car was 1963 model, roadster pink Cadillac. I had a Dalmatian dog in that time. My dog, my daughter and I were used to get on the car and cruise down the Bosphorus. It was really joyous. I don’t like speed but I like that power standing behind me. I like the emotion of using that power but I don’t use it. There is a song in my forthcoming album named V8. As you know, Americans have V8. They have a sound which is awesome.
Do you have a passion for sports?
Only gym… I couldn’t perform any sports apart from that because I always had to protect my hands and fingers. Volleyball, basketball, football, they all were forbidden. I had 2 back surgeries in the last two years. Professional problem… I only go to gym accordingly. Spor olarak bir tek Gym.
Do you have a specific ritual?
I had but I have changed a month ago. My new ritual is to live calm without getting angry with anything. Being obsessed about nothing except music… I’m waiting for the summer. I go to the south in summers. Out of Bodrum… I like the Gulf of Gokova. Apart from that, I like going to the Tunnel in Istanbul once in a week. I go to Taksim from Maslak by metro, and then, to the Tunnel. There is Lale Records. A 56-year record seller… Jazz and classical records are sold there. I definitely run in there. I am at home generally. Sometimes I meet with my friends.
Musicians don’t like night life so much. What about you?
I don’t like too. I had played in that environment for 25-30 years. As you enter the venue, valets rush towards you, cloakroom attendants chase you, waiters and so on… It’s not certain if you eat or get beat up. I eat in the places where there’s no live music. No matter where I am, I can’t eat when there’s bad music. Even it’s a music coming through a CD… I eat very well in Sunset. In Zuma… Kanyon Gina is also good. I can never eat with house music. But it’s beautiful for the people who like that style. I just don’t prefer.
But jazz music is preferred often as a dinner music…
Yes it is. There is Dinner Jazz. Frank Sinatra is played. It makes you happy with your dinner. It makes you smile. Even if you’re not up to drink, you drink another bottle of wine for example.
You said that you go to New York at least once in a year. What do you like most in New York?
Manhattan… What else could it be? Museums, jazz clubs everywhere, sushi restaurants… There is life in New York. The time passes by rapidly. But not for living… You should stay there for 2 or 3 months and return.
What about Istanbul?
It’s a different city because it’s some Mediterranean. Restaurants and night clubs change every other year in Istanbul. I especially like this neighborhood of Istanbul which is Emirgan. For example, there isn’t any noise right now. I walk down to Cinarli Kahve… Walking, swimming… It’s great. I grew in Esentepe. There was all green. Everywhere was covered with mulberry trees. In 1972, the roads of Bosphorus Bridge were constructed. I have witnessed what the city turned into in 40-50 years. It was about cabbage farms from our house to Darphane. I remind these memories as a pastel colour. Istanbul was colourless in that time. There were no billboards. The cars were black and white. The location where Akmerkez stands today was empty. There was no place called Ulus. It was strawberry farm. Today’s children live in a completely different Istanbul.
Is your daughter interested in music?
Yes. She both studies in normal school and part-time State Conservatory of Mimar Sinan University. Third class, piano…
She likes then?
Yes but it was a bit constrained, I guess.
Does she have another field of interest?
She likes sports. She has a genetic intelligence inherited from her mother. Her mother is also pretty intelligent. My wife, Pinar… We married in 1987. She graduated from Robert College. She went to America and studied Computer Science & Economy. She had graduated as first among six thousand students. She is really clever. She worked in Borland there and become senior manager. When she returned to Turkey, it was 1995. In May… And I recorded an album named “I Love May” for her. My wife is one of the founders of Turk.net. She is a bit workaholic.
How did you meet your wife?
She was studying in a university in America. And I was playing jazz in Bodrum. I was staying in a hotel near Halicarnassus. It was 1986. The management of the hotel didn’t have a high opinion of musicians. They wanted to put us to a place like a dormitory. I protested and didn’t stay there. I had a car and a dog tent inside it. There was a diving school in Bitez. I pitched the tent there. I am also interested in sea so much. I love sea life. Whatever… Pinar was there for holiday. She was staying in Aktur. We met there. She was 21-22 years old. They came to the place where we play in the evening. Then, she extended her holiday to 3 weeks whereas her holiday was only a week. She returned to her school. In those times, there were letters. She still keeps our letters…
Apparently, this is the most unforgotten memory of your life… Well, what is the funniest memory of you up to now?
Not funny but tragicomic… We went to Mersin for a tour in 1983. Our deceased drummer Erdem was there. In those times, there were no hard cases for drums. We used to wrap blankets over the drums. We used to go to the concerts like that. I had an electronic piano which was Fender Rhodes; 80 kg. We were carrying that by wrapping it with blankets on pickup truck. We went to Topkapi coach station. I can’t tell you the situation that we were in. It was like Frederico Fellini movies… We were young then. Carrying already… And there’s an amplifier etc… We arrived in Mersin by bus. Cigarettes were being smoked in the bus etc… You can’t even dream of that. The concert was at Mersin Castle. The car went as far as Mersin Castle. Everyone took their instruments, guitars etc… Just the drummer and I were left there. We carried the instruments to the castle on our shoulders in 2-2.5 hours. There was nothing to do. This memory makes me to rush into the questions.
How about your adaptation with digital world? There is a hashtag in Twitter named #cazhareketi… Is it yours?
Yes. Jazz movement has reached to hundred thousands in Turkey. That really has been a movement in this way. For instance, last week, we made a Stevie Wonder week. We make people to come together thanks to technology, we post videos etc… Quality works don’t vanish. Jazz is a mechanism to make people dream. Every jazz song has their own stories and secret heroes. There is nothing like “let’s write a jazz song for no reason”. That story perforates in the listener. At that point, the listener starts to follow and listen to jazz.
You like sharing in that platform…
Only in jazz, yes.
What do you face on Twitter? After all, it’s a continuous communication…
Yes. The hell is raised in Twitter. There are people who write “Why do you play American music? God damn you!”. And I respond. They ask “Why don’t you play in Turkish?”. If I play, it wouldn’t be intimate. I have grown up in this way. Turkish music doesn’t fit with jazz harmonies in the meaning of musical scale. I tell these to the people. You should explain. Otherwise, if you try to react to impact with impact, unnecessary things would happen. Our only trouble in Turkey is about education. We are a society which blows up immediately. But when you explain, everything is alright.
Well, the last question: Is there any sentence that you have determined as a “motto” in your life?
There is a recommendation left from my family to me: “I don’t talk about the subject that I don’t know, I listen. And I don’t speak too much about a subject that I know”. You should stand behind about something. You should watch.