American Jazz, Turkish Rhythms Fused in New CD

Composer Mehmet Ali Sanlikol.
When Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, a bandleader and composer, returns to Rockport this Sunday to debut his new jazz album at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, his thoughts will be on Gloucester’s late jazz genius Herb Pomeroy, whose influence can be heard in the new CD “Resolution,” which fuses American jazz with Turkish rhythms. “In the very first piece in the album, I am using this movement where I am using one of the techniques I learned in my first class with him,” said Sanlikol, a multi-instrumentalist. The Turkish-born musician came to America as a teenager to study at Berklee College of Music, where he was the final student taught by Pomeroy nearly two decades ago.

“As I was preparing to come to the United States, my teacher in Turkey, who was a graduate of Berklee, said, ‘Don’t you think of graduating without taking a Herb Pomeroy class,’” recalled Sanlikol. “When I came to Berklee, I discovered two things — he was retiring at the end of 1995 and his classes at the time would only take students by audition.”

Sanlikol wrote the necessary arrangement for big band that was required for the audition, and luckily he passed.

“The audition was basically our arrangements being played by his ensemble. Then he announced the students that would be accepted to study with him. I was lucky enough to take the two legendary classes he taught at Berklee: Linewriting and Music of Duke Ellington,” he said.

Sanlikol studied with Pomeroy during the fall of 1994 and spring of 1995. But the education went beyond music.

“He was one of the kindest people I have ever met in my life. I was a 19-year-old Turkish boy who just came to Boston, and you’re vulnerable and fragile in many ways, and he was so nice to me. I was hardworking and he supported a lot of things that I did. At times, he would suddenly break into a story about Duke or Charlie Parker and I was all ears,” Sanlikol said. “His influence on me is huge. I can easily tell you that there are at least three or four specific moments at this concert that I am using the techniques I learned from him.”

On Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5 p.m., Sanlikol performs with saxophonist David Liebman and trumpeter Tiger Okoshi, along with his genre-busting big band ensemble Whatsnext? playing modern swing compositions fused with Turkish influences. The ensemble is performing some of the same pieces on Sanlikol’s new CD, which was just named a Downbeat’s 2016 Editors’ Pick. Sanlikol pairs Middle Eastern instruments with the band, incorporating the Turkish makam (mode) and usul (rhythmic cycles) into contemporary jazz. (Ann Gail McCarthy,

Shalin Liu Performance Center is located at 37 Main St., Rockport. For tickets and information, visit
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07