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Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is about,
"My Journey in the Music World."

Written and Presented by
October 6, 2004, New York City

My Journey in the Music World, by Arif MARDIN

I was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1932. In my family, there are many people who chose the government, the army, law, religion, banking, teaching and business as a profession. In my family, it is interesting to note that my two grandfathers were governors in Iraq and Syria during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. My maternal grandfather became a member of parliament during the new republic which the brilliant Kemal Ataturk established. My great uncle, a religious scholar, became a Swiss Civil Code expert and taught law after the Republic was formed. Both men believed that only the separation of church and state, could move Turkey ahead.

I was brought up in this atmosphere of the excitement of the new, always looking forward. This may have affected my taste in music too as I most often sought out the Avant Garde. In my family, especially in those days, music was considered a hobby, a pass time, something to be enjoyed in one's spare time, and not as a way to earn one's living.

Yes, how is it that I am now in this country, the producer and winner of the 2003 Grammy Awards for Producer of the Year and Record of the Year, almost a repeat performance of the 1990 Grammys?

Some of you may wonder what a record producer is, what he does. Well, a record producer is not a financier but a music man in total charge of all aspects and stages of the recording and the completion of a phonograph record. This role in making a record can be likened to that of a movie director's. He directs, guides and coordinates the project to completion, making budgets, hiring musicians, hiring the studio, selecting songs (very important), directing the artist, creating an artistic environment are all part of his or her job.

How did I get to be a record Producer? I must say it was a long and difficult road, and it all started with the records that my sisters used to listen to in our house in Istanbul.

I must have been about five years old when the strains of American Big Bands, The Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby and other American performers entered my consciousness as I played with my toys. I did not begin to appreciate Turkish music until much later in my life. When I was ten years old I told my mother that my sisters were raving about the Duke Ellington Jazz Band. We went to the store and I purchased my first Duke Ellington record.

My astute and observant mother sensing some talent in me. Insisted on my taking piano lessons when I was a kid. She also took me to the municipal theatre matinees to see plays by Moliere and Shakespeare. I must point out that this was the cultural atmosphere during the early years of the Republic.

Slowly, my ambition crystallized. I wanted to become a jazz composer and arranger. What attracted me to jazz music was its being built on individual expression. This trait is like a magnet, drawing young people from all over the world.

By the time I had reached sixteen years of age, I had become a wide-eyed junior member of a small clique of fanatical jazz enthusiasts in Istanbul. Ismet Siral, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Cüneyt Sermet, Erdem Buri were part of this group which did not exceed more than ten people compared to the wealth of talent, state of the art technology and large number of musicians I enjoyed during the recent “Jazz Made in Turkey” festival at Alice Tully Hall, Turkish Jazz came a long way since 1949. In 1949 our small group used to hold jam sessions whenever it could. Our heroes were Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, leading jazz figures at that time. It was then that I started to try my hand at composing.

Arif MARDIN is presenting his Journey in the Music World on
October 6, 2004.

Later, when I joined a rehearsal big band, I started to write orchestrations on a strictly trial and error basis. While all this musical activity was dominating a part of my life, my education progressed in a somewhat different, more conservative direction. I attended the English High School for Boys and graduated from the Economics and Commerce Faculty of Istanbul University. It was understood within the family that after I completed a postgraduate course in Business Administration at the London School of Economics, I would join the firm where my father was chairman of the board.

All went according to the master plan until Dizzy Gillespie came to Istanbul with his Big Band in 1956. Dizzy and Quincy Jones (now a giant in the music industry) encouraged me and helped me. The fire that had been smoldering in my heart, my desire for a career in music was rekindled.

Looking back after so many years, it is not difficult to realize why my father was not very enthusiastic about my ambition. When he asked me what a jazz arranger would do, how he would earn his living, the job description I gave him was so nebulous, that I can well understand why he started to worry about my future. But I still felt that I had to try. The decision was not easy. It entailed leaving behind a very comfortable life, a loving family, friends and a secure job and embark on what even our friends called an adventure.

At that time, my wife Latife and I had been married for less than a year. It was only because of her fierce courage, her belief in me and her many sacrifices that we were able to start on our joint venture. The dreams we dreamt and the plans we made came true because she was there at my side always.

Quincy Jones recorded three of my compositions with a band which included art farmer, Phil Woods, Hank Jones among others and sent the tape to Berklee College of Music in Boston, with his recommendations. In 1958, I received a scholarship at the Berklee College of Music. It was the Quincy Jones Scholarship. I traveled first. Latife joined me later.

America... Ah, yes, The United States at last... I was elated and yet at the same time I felt very tentative and very scared. Learning new customs, adapting to a new way of life, while trying to prove myself to the folks back home, was not easy. What truly helped me in those days was the friendship I received in Boston.

The riches-to-rags segment of our journey had begun. We were living in one room of a boarding house in the Back Bay Section of Boston. We shared a bathroom with other students. Compared to our luxurious life in Istanbul, this was not good. However, Latife did not complain as she was happy for me. I was fascinated by the new knowledge I was getting at school, I was writing orchestrations for the Herb Pomeroy Band, I was composing. We were living a bohemian life.

For our first wedding anniversary we wanted to forget that bohemian style. She wore an evening gown and I put on my tuxedo. We had scraped away enough to buy a bottle of champagne and some caviar.

I have to say that America has been good to me. I have been given many breaks and my talents have been appreciated. It is true that my native country, Turkey, provides a unique blend of history, tradition, culture and strong work ethic to its people. These qualities mixed with the typical American dynamism made it possible for me to join the mosaic of people that makes this country so great.

Now, let me go back to the past once more after graduating in 1960 and teaching for two years in Boston, we moved to New York where my wife took a job at the United Nations. I played the role of the struggling musician for a year. Latife tells me that that was one of her happiest times in her life as she was the bread winner looking after me. In 1963 the late and sadly missed Nesuhi Ertegun offered me a job at the Atlantic Records studio, I accepted on the spot.

Nesuhi must have been quietly following my musical growth. In 1958 at the NEWPORT Jazz Festival and in 1959 during the three weeks I spent at the Lenox School of Jazz where the teachers were jazz greats like the late John Lewis and Max Roach. Nesuhi had a chance to hear my compositions and arrangements and I gather he must have believed in my musical talent and wanted me to develop further at Atlantic Records. He also arranged for me to get a scholarship when I was at the Lenox School of Jazz, BMI and ASCAP being the giant performance rights societies in music publishing.

Thus I entered the world of the recording studio, artists, musicians, studio engineering techniques, jazz, gospel and rhythm and blues. I tried to learn by watching Nesuhi and his brother Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records. In 1965, Atlantic entrusted me with a recording project. That first record, "Good Lovin" by the Rascals shot up to number one on the charts. From that point on, I knew that I was bitten by the "Pop Music" bug and continued in that direction.

It was an exciting period at Atlantic Records. I was promoted to studio manager. I was in the middle of soul music from Memphis, British Rock like Led Zeppelin and The Stones, California pop like Sonny and Cher. While I was handling these master tapes I also had to be in studio "A" for an Aretha Franklin Session.

I became part of a well remembered production team headed by one of the partners, Jerry Wexler and my mentor, Tom Dowd. Together we recorded Aretha, Dusty Springfield and many other great artists. I was writing string and brass arrangements for them. As an in-house arranger/producer I worked with such artists like the Beegees, Aretha Franklin, Phil Collins and Bette Midler with whom, in 1990 I made the Grammy Winning "Wind Beneath my Wings."

My journey at that point in life may be called the riches-to-rags-to success story. From Istanbul to Boston to New York and Atlantic Records and Aretha Franklin! What a trip!

Ahmet also gave me permission to produce artists outside the Atlantic Roster. I had success with Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross, Patty Labelle, Carly Simon, Judy Collins and Chaka Khan. My wife observed, "I see you are working with divas only!"

In the month of May 2001, because of mandatory retirement rules, I retired from Atlantic Records, with a tingle of sadness, I must add, after thirty eight years. It was a weird feeling not to go to work! I guess all retirees feel like that. On the other hand, my wife Latife was very happy. "We'll take trips, you'll write your memoirs," she was saying.

My friend Ian Ralfini, also retired music executive and I were hatching plans for a new, but low key venture. We even conned our wives saying that we would sign cabaret acts and we would go out often and have a good time. But Bruce Lundwall, President of Blue Note and Angel Records, part of the giant Emi Corporation, made us an offer that we could not refuse. A dormant record label called "Manhattan Records" was re-activated for us. In the tragic month of September 2001 we started work. Our area was going to be "adult pop" music, music for people over thirty-five, that is people who rather than download, would go to the store and buy a CD. Our first artist was the golden-voiced New York police officer, Daniel Rodriguez. Our roster today includes a wide range of established and new artists like Richard Marx and Keri Noble.

While Latife Mardin is giving her speech titled, "Waiting for "A"n",
Arif Mardin listens her with a great joy on October 6, 2004 at the
Marmara Manhattan Hotel in New York City.

In August 2001, Bruce Lundvall of Blue Note Records, a sister company of Manhattan Records, asked me to produce a new comer, singer, song-writer and piano player, a young lady of twenty-two. Her name was Norah Jones. In the album, five human beings are playing and no machines were involved. Even though the music and her singing was extremely heartfelt, we thought it wouldn't be successful at teen music dominated pop radio. Boy were we wrong! With word of mouth, raving reviews, TV appearances she touched the hearts of every generation. In the period of one year, her CD sold in excess of five million in the US alone. In February, 2003 she won five Grammies and then at the age of seventy-one, I might add, I won three. This unbelievable success story upset many music executives in the business, who relied on making formula records. They have to start thinking again.

2003 and 2004 were busy years for me. Worked with Norah on her second album. One of the highlights was to record at a studio in the mountains of Woodstock with some members of the legendary group called "The Band". Great view, pure oxygen and after the sessions I would mix deadly martinis (my specialty) for Norah and her band.

Also in 2004 my son Joe (Also a Berklee Graduate) and I produced and arranged half and album for Queen Latifah, great singer.

Now Joe and I are working with Raul Midon, a Manhattan Records artis who is a fantastic guitarist, singer and he is here tonight.

I am talking about projects and recordings, but did I mention that I retired from Emi Records in September? Latife is still saying "We'll travel and you will write your memoirs". Well, at age 72, my knees are telling me to cut back. A friend of mine told me the other day to listen to the "Organ Recital"! during this successful portion of my musical career which was dominated by pop and R&B music, I did not forget jazz. I produced many jazz acts when I was at Atlantic, wrote arrangements for European big bands. Workd with the great Dianne Reeves. I even dabbled on classical music.

I wrote an opera. Some of its arias were played in Istanbul by the Borusan Symphony. My string Quartet will be performed in Los Angles in January.

Arif Mardin's daughter Julie Mardin is videotaping the event, Figen Bingül
(General Secretary of the Light Millennium) and Joe Mardin
(left with black shirt) during the event.

I would like to take this opportunity and thank Light Millennium and its tireless founder, Bircan Unver for putting together this marvelous evening. I thank my awant garde artist-writer daughter, Julie Mardin for the avant garde visual collage she prepared for tonight. I thank Joe Mardin, a total music man, for the very engaging musical collage he prepared. I thank my partner Ian Ralfini for his colorful introduction, and Sunny Ralfini for being here tonight. I would like to thank Sedat Nemli for his sentiments and the Jazz Quiz that prepared. And finally, I turn to my wife, Latife, my love and better half, partner in this joint venture called life, the ture wind beneath my wings.

_ . _

-- Waiting for "A"
by Latife MARDIN
-- A dream about the Mardins
-- For Mini Quiz
by Sedat NEMLI

-- "Arif Mardin: Journey in the Music World"
titled event written and presented by Arif MARDIN, produced by Bircan Ünver for the Light Millennium on October 6, 2004 at The Marmara Manhattan Hotel in New York City.
-- Photo Credits:
-- Special Thanks to:
Julie MARDIN, Joe MARDIN & Sedat NEMLI. Also Thanks to Figen BINGUL, Erhan BERBER, Aysel TOPRAKLI & Didem YILMAZ.

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