The program of this year’s Akbank Jazz Festival, which took place between 3-19 November, even though perfectly adequate, was thought-provoking due to some unexpected disappointing surprises. For example, the first two concerts had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances: Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio, which was supposed to perform at Zorlu Center on the 6th of November changed their plans in the last minute because of guitarist Muthspiel’s whims, making both the festival team and us disappointed. The second cancellation came from Abdullah İbrahim+Hugh Masekela+Ekaya who were scheduled to take perform their interesting project at Uniq Hall on the 8th of November. They cancelled all of their concerts in Europe due to Masekela’s sudden illness. This situation also brought the jazz loving audiences down.
As for me; I followed the festival starting on the 4th of November. I congratulate Dr. Hakan Rauf Tüfekçi for the emotional and illuminating interview he has conducted with Şehrazat under the topic “For You-Sevinç Tevs” on the 4th of November at Soho House. We felt the presence of our first jazz diva Sevinç Tevs among us through the alto voice and storytelling of her dear daughter Şehrazat, whom she left under our care. I couldn’t made it to the performance of Daniel Herskedal-Marius Neset Duo in Akbank Sanat at 19:00 despite my wishes, because we kept sharing our feelings after the interview.
I came together with Ali Sönmez on the 5th of November in Pera Palas Jumeirah Orient Bar under the moderatorship of Sevin Okyay and had a conversation on “The Beat Generation and Jazz”. I enjoyed this immensely. We dove right into Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and then steered towards Charlie Parker, Lester Young and simply could not skip to mention the role of the movies. These topics were the passions of my dear friends Sevin, Ali and mine. We happily shared our passions with our kind and attentive audience.
I briefly attended Ulf and his son Eric Wakenius’s duo guitar concert at Akbank Sanat which started at 19:00, because I had to make it to Christian Scott’s concert at Zorlu Center. It is interesting that this young trumpet player from Louisiana is also a luthier and instrument designer. He based his concert, called “Forecasting Cell”, on “Groove” style improvizations which were reminiscent of the first years of the Free Jazz movement. The younger members of the audience were especially pleased.
I was the most moved by Benedikt Jahnel Trio among the concerts I could listen to. This trio performed at Akbank Sanat on the 11th of November and was founded by German pianist, composer and mathemetician Benedikt Jahnel. The have released three albums so far: “Modular Concepts (Material-2008), “Equilibrium (ECM-2012)” and “The Invariant (ECM-2017)”. They interpreted Modern Post-Bop style compositions from these albums during the concert. It was a great pleasure to listen to these young, humble and first-class musicians.
Two great consecutive concerts which took place at Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall on the 12th of November represented the spirit of Akbank Jazz Festival. The evening started with Amina Figarova Sextet at 18:00. Born in Baku, Figarova is the second most successful pianist from Azerbaijan after Aziza Mustafa Zadeh. She is different than Aziza because she is unassuming, yet impresses with her solid technique and affluence to modern jazz. Her trio interpretations made jazz lovers happy.
Two virtuoso pianists from Cuba exceeded all expectations at 20:30. These two masters were Chucho Valdes, who is from the old generation and also one of the founders of Irakere, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba, who says he grew up with Valdes’s music. These two musicians maintained a perfect balance without stealing each other’s light, and presented a repertoire that ranged from bebop to Latin jazz classics.
The final concert I attended to was given by yet another rising pianist from Cuba, Alfredo Rodriguez and his trio. His father, who also carries the same name, is one of the most important names in jazz and entertainment circles in Havana. His son Alfredo received his education on classical music. He is a great pianist like his father. The albums of this musician, who brought the music of his country to the modern jazz platform, are mostly very successful. He was accompanied by bassist Munır Hossn and drummer Miguel Olivera during his concert at Babylon on the 14th of November. The trio brought the audience to life with their constantly increasing dynamic attitude. However, the fact that Alfredo Rodriguez put on a “show” overshadowed his technique. It is obvious that he is a great musician and he didn’t need to show off. This reminded me of Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s first ever Akbank Jazz Festival concert at CRR. He was showing off as well. We witnessed his maturation and how he internalized his technique during his following concerts. We expect the same maturation from Rodriguez.