On Thursday night at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Peggy Lee (cello) and the mesmerizing Saadet Türköz (vocals) mixed free improvisation with the Kazakh and Turkish forms of Türköz’s childhood transformed through her knowledge of Western music, particularly free jazz, and through the most unleashed of improvising.

“After beginning her career with an impromptu performance at a friend’s wedding, she recorded her first CD Kara Toprak in 1994, and her second, Marmara Sea, in 1999, before traveling to her parents’ homeland to lay down her third release, 2006’s Urumchi. It comprises love songs, lullabies, dirges, and folk songs, extended through improvisation and accompanied by Kazakh musicians playing such instruments as the dombra lute and the kilkobuz, another stringed instrument.

Her stunning technique aside, the essence of her performances is the conjuring of the most mysterious and transporting of moods and hues. As Türköz has put it: “I seek to evoke pictures and atmospheres by means of voice and music which transcend cultural boundaries.”
Tonight Türköz performs with the cellist Peggy Lee, who has been a fixture since 1989 of the fertile music scene of Vancouver, British Columbia. A participant in many projects there, including the renowned NOW Orchestra, she also has been a frequent collaborator with Canadian, American, and European players. She is, for example, a first-call band member for visitors to the city’s famed annual jazz festival, including trumpeter Dave Douglas, guitarist Nels Cline, and Seattle-based keyboardist Wayne Horvitz. Her repertoire takes in improvising, new chamber works, and electro-acoustic ensembles, among them her Peggy Lee Band, formed in 1998 to perform and improvise around her own compositions. And it has won wide acclaim; Downbeat said it “exemplifies the strength and maturity of the Vancouver jazz and improvised music scene,” while the New York Times praised its flowing, organic sound.

Raised in Toronto and trained in classical music at the University of Toronto, Lee has said that her evolution as a musician quickened when she arrived in the West and interacted with musicians like, her now husband, percussionist Dylan van der Schyff: “It wasn’t just a matter of the kinds of sounds; it was more breaking out of being a reader and trying to get the flow happening – of hearing and playing at the same time. Some of the techniques that I use in written music, and especially in new music, I’ll use as an improviser, but sometimes I also like to play with a nice tone. Or in tune. I’m not trying to discard my whole training, but just get the other part of my brain working as far as thinking creatively at that moment.”

Those are qualities that lend themselves ideally to her duo with Saadet Türköz. As Lee noted in a 2005 interview: “I don’t know that I even play experimental music. It’s just music that makes sense to me given who I am and where I come from.”

From Peter Monaghan’s description in the Earshot Jazz Festival Guide.

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