“The idea of what if isn’t a gain. We even tell this to our patients in therapy; that it isn’t very positive to start with ‘what if’s. Of course, I would have liked to start this at an earlier age, to take interest in jazz when I was younger and became a jazz musician as my sole profession. It isn’t so easy at this point, but I will work on this as long as I live and try to be a part of jazz.”

These words belong to the vibraphonist Can Tutuğ who is on his way to become a jazz musician, as he describes it…

Can Tutuğ, a musician on the path leading to jazz who is also a doctor, has made undeniable contributions to jazz in Turkey. Tutuğ lives in Edirne and tries to keep jazz alive there by expanding its reach; someone whose heart is entirely in this. I would like to thank him in the name of the jazz world. It is evident that his love will take him to places. Jazz is an endless path for Can Tutuğ, it is a journey. He says this path is very long and adds “I actually have to learn how to walk on it first.”

Let’s embark on this journey of hard work, and witness Can Tutuğ’s journey…

What Is This Miracle?

Music has been the center of my life during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. I liked music above anything else. I have had the opportunity to perform in various cities, starting from my own, with different instruments since I was a child. However; the story of jazz is slightly different. I have played with some rock bands. I met some jazz musicians when I entered high school. What I mean by meeting is from cassettes or CDs we could find in those days. And I was very impressed as I listened. As I became more impressed, I got curious about how music was shaped like this and I started to question. What do these musicians do, how do they achieve that, what is this miracle…

The Incredible and Endless State of Music

There is an album which especially affected me; Cannoball Adderley and John Coltrane’s 1959 album “The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago”. The constant trade between Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, that incredible and endless state of music especially influenced me. I thought back then, I should become a jazz musician. Following Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane’s albums, I think I was most affected by Milt Jackson and Gunter Hampel. Milt Jackson’s perfect setup in that bluesy walk, the way Gunter Hampel works the idea of endless freedom into his pieces have all influenced me.

Vibraphone All Day and All Night

I tried playing the saxophone for a while. Honestly, I wasn’t able to achieve the level I set out for. Then I got curious about vibraphone, an instrument with a sound that I admired, but had to stay away in that period due to some financial concerns. I first researched how vibraphone is played. I took some short lessons from a teacher from Istanbul Technical University. Then I ordered a vibraphone and dedicated my days and nights to it after it arrived. I slept with my vibraphone, woke up to it, calmed down my neighbours who complained about the noise, and continued on playing. I started out with saxophone but wind instruments are a bit ungrateful in general. It should have been practiced more frequently. I am talking about me when I was about 10-something years old. And the examinations coming up ahead took a toll on this. Therefore I took a break and I wasn’t able to take it up again. Then vibraphone all day and all night…

Can Tutuğ (Photo: Özcan Çeltikli)

Trombone Makes Me Sigh…

I would really have liked to play the trombone. Because J.J. Johnson was one of the most influential jazz musicians for me, then Curtis Fuller or Grachan Moncur. All three are trombonists and have influenced me a lot. That was an important factor that formed the texture of the music I try to make.

Can You Make a Living with Music (?) 

I am a doctor. I graduated from medical school. Of course, we smile as we say this but I wish I was only involved with jazz. My family supported my wish to become a musician, but from a distance. They said “Yes, it is great, it is wonderful.” and so on. But then added, just like a typical Turkish family would, “Don’t fall behind on your classwork, son. You know about music, our situation isn’t great. One cannot make a living with music. You should be careful about this.” These things are tough in Turkey, due to financial concerns and so on. A reason why I took a break from the saxophone was the specialty exams following the medical school. I got into the psychiatry department, then dedicated a year to that, and wasn’t able to focus on jazz.

At Least One Jazz Concert in Edirne…

I tried to play jazz at home with my guitarist friend Yalın Doğu Şahin for a very long time. We looked at some notes, did some transcriptions, arranged the forms… We both had becoming jazz musicians in mind and we were trying to achieve that. After that, we formed a quartet with double bass player Asal Altay and drummer Uğurcan Mamuzlu. Our goal back then was “Let’s give a jazz concert in Edirne at least, and we will be satisfied all our lives because we have done this.” We thought we would tell our children about it. Then, the demand for these concerts in Edirne increased and we said “It looks good, we should continue doing this for a little longer.” Following some positive progress in our career as a band in 2015, we heard about a competition called Young Jazz. We thought we should enter as well. We thought we would try our luck, and if it doesn’t work out, we will be eliminated and go back home. Then we won.

Can Tutuğ (Photo: Özcan Çeltikli)

Jazz is a Journey, And An Endless Path

I think jazz is a journey. It is an endless path. It is a path on which you think you approach the horizon, only to realize it is farther ahead—a path that will never end and make you realize you are such a small speck on it. At least that is my description of it. This is what jazz is in its entirety for me. Not the limelight, not African-American musicians, or shiny instruments. It is an endless path for me. Speaking about jazz in Turkey; a lot of great things have been done in the name of jazz here. There are some great old and new albums, just like the masterful Jazz Semai released by Tuna Ötenel in 1978. Just like a few albums I have listened to of late;  Fatih Erkoç’s True Love and Bulut Gülen’s album Su. These are albums that we would listen to countless times while driving and think “we should interpret this in our way.” They are truly great.

Jazz Musicians Who Eat Dürüm After the Concert

There are those who see jazz musicians differently than musicians of other genres. This happens in Turkey, this happens globally; it happens everywhere. When we use that word ‘elite’; it actually isn’t a negative word but we use and perceive it that way. There are jazz musicians who seem this way. There are also warm and sincere jazz musicians as well. There are jazz musicians who eat dürüm (a type of Turkish food that is like a wrap) after the concert. These all depend on the personality of the musician, his nature…

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