Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
"My Journey in the Music World."
and Presented by
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MARDIN is presenting his Journey in the Music World on
October 6, 2004.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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."
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!
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!"
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.
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.
Latife Mardin is giving her speech titled, "Waiting
Arif Mardin listens her with a great joy on October 6,
2004 at the
Marmara Manhattan Hotel in New York City.
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
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.
in 2004 my son Joe (Also a Berklee Graduate) and I produced
and arranged half and album for Queen Latifah, great singer.
Joe and I are working with Raul Midon, a Manhattan Records
artis who is a fantastic guitarist, singer and he is here
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.
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.
Mardin's daughter Julie Mardin is videotaping the event,
(General Secretary of the Light Millennium) and
(left with black shirt) during the event.
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
by Ilhan MIMAROGLU
For Mini Quiz
by Sedat NEMLI
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: Gul
-- Special Thanks to: Julie
MARDIN, Joe MARDIN & Sedat NEMLI. Also Thanks to Figen
BINGUL, Erhan BERBER, Aysel TOPRAKLI & Didem YILMAZ.