Ali Berkok is a pianist, improviser and composer in Toronto. His electro-acoustic quartet Aurochs (with Pete Johnston - bass, Jake Oelrichs - drums, Mike Smith - electronics) can be witnessed monthly at the Tranzac club. Their second album “Another Helpful Medicine” is on the All-Set! imprint. Berkok’s solo piano music, is a diverse array of re-imagined jazz standards, original compositions and purely improvised pieces, all of which seek to explore fully the inner workings of the piano.
Ali Berkok’s compositions include a score for Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin, for which he assembled a twelve-piece chamber ensemble at Toronto’s Beit Zeitoun, where over two sold-out nights they performed the score live with a screening of the film. Arkana, a quintet consisting of Berkok (piano), Mark Laver (saxophone), Tom Richards (trombone), Gord Mowat (bass) and Jake Oelrichs (drums) have released two albums: Hyprovisation and Kaleidoscope, which feature music for improvising jazz quintet. Arkana’s third album, featuring a brand new quartet of Berkok, Andrew Miller (drums), Karen Ng (saxophone) and Erika Nielsen (cello), is workshopping towards a recording in Spring 2017.
In addition to his projects as a creative leader, Ali maintains longstanding collaborations with those in his immediate musical family: Mike Smith Company (formerly Muskox, who released six albums and were voted best jazz band of the year by NOW Magazine), and Tova Kardonne.
Ali is a multi-grant winning artist (Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council) and is a recipient of the Canada Graduate Scholarship SSHRC for his Master’s research. He is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Toronto, where he researches multidimensional musical time, or, music with overt or implied periods of two or more simultaneous tempos – like when your radio and windshield wipers are in and out of sync with each other.
Ali volunteers as an organizer for Somewhere There Creative Music Presentations who run a regular series including local improvisers and international luminaries. Somewhere There’s annual festival has received significant funding from the Canada Council of the Arts and has become a fixture in Toronto’s DIY music scene.
When he is not writing a dissertation or creating music for public consumption, Berkok teaches private piano lessons at The Music Studio in Etobicoke.
Finally, Ali finds it strange to refer to himself in the third-person: it was he who wrote this bio.