“Jazz in Turkey…”
Continuous flow of albums, launches, concerts…
“Who will release the next album?”
“Who will play in the album?”
“Where will the band’s next concert be?”
Events are frequently taking place in many Turkish cities, Istanbul and Ankara being the major hubs, and many morning and evening plans are being organized for music and jazz lovers. We try to attend most as the Jazz Dergisi team, and try to bring you the freshest news. We have already agreed upon the fact that the majority of these evenings are very special.
However, none of these have been as special as the evening of 26th of April, Wednesday. I believe none will be in the future, either…
A long-awaited jazz night attended by a huge audience who consider this evening as one of the most important experiences in their lives with many warm memories to come… Salon IKSV seems to put aside all the previous performances it has hosted in its existence and opens its doors for an unforgettable performance, lead by the captain Tuna Ötenel to sail away to distant jazz harbours.
Those who follow my articles on Jazz Dergisi know my fondness for the term “All-Star team”. But in that particular evening, it wasn’t just “a few” musicians.
You have probably seen the famous photo called “A Great Day in Harlem” before. Taken by the freelance photographer Art Kane in 1958, all of the prominent musicians of the period were photographed in that shot. That evening, famous jazz musicians of Turkey seemed to line up to see Tuna Ötenel, to remember his contribution to Turkish music and jazz, to show him their respects and to be a part of this unforgettable night both through listening and playing. As we know that it is not possible to see that many musicians together once more after the Harlem photo was taken, we also know that this opportunity Tuna Ötenel has provided might not be repeated again, so we should listen to every single note with utmost attention, and maybe someday tell our children “how this memorable evening was” and answer their questions easily about this milestone evening.
Such a warm evening, the evening breeze gently touches my shoulders… I walk down from the ramp that I know so well from my school years, this time rushing to make it to Salon IKSV in time for this beautiful organization. I run into İmer Demirer and Neşet Ruacan, deep in conversation, at the ticket booth. I have met and conversed with İmer Demirer before, but I unnoticeably shiver as I shake Neşet Ruacan’s hand for the first time, not to make my excitement so obvious! The little ticket booth, which I went to get our invitations as representatives of Jazz Dergisi, immediately transforms into a red carpet and it doesn’t take me long to notice that I am side by side with the jazz musicians who are my idols… Everybody becomes Art Kane through the photos they take, immortalizing their lives.
In the meanwhile the final preparations are going on at Salon, because they haven’t opened their doors early. As a silver lining, I overhear the conversations between the participators and the musicians while I wait, everybody is talking about Tuna Ötenel… About “Jazz Semai”, old albums, old pieces and of course, about this pleasant evening…
Then the long-awaited moment comes and we take our places with a small delay. Tunçel Gülsoy, who also writes for Jazz Dergisi, finds the perfect angle to present our readers with visual legacy of this evening. Tuna Ötenel comes out and sits down with virtuoso pianist Emin Fındıkoğlu to play one of the best pianos in Istanbul, a beautiful Steinway, in the midst of enthusiastic applauses coming from the audience. The evening starts with Clifford Brown’s immortal composition “Sandu” and Ötenel’s incredible performance commands standing ovation, followed by Lee Morgan’s “Ceora”. Everybody in Salon is seems to be getting in the mood.
Tuna Ötenel and Emin Fındıkoğlu’s friendship goes back almost 35-40 years and we learn this from Fındıkoğlu who takes the microphone in between the pieces. As we covet this genuine friendship as the listeners, we find peace through the accompaniment of their comrades on the stage: Murat Verdi on the drums, Hakan Behlil on the double bass and Şenova Ülker on the trumpet… Pelin Opçin, who is one of the architects of this unforgettable evening, steps on the stage after these two pieces and told us about how this evening came to being with an excitement like her first days at IKSV. This was followed by Emin Fındıkoğlu and Tuna Ötenel’s cornet-piano duo, playing “Aurore” from the ‘L’Ecume De Vian’ album, recorded by Miles Davis and double bass player Pierre Michelot in 1998, who accompanied Davis for the music of the movie Ascenseur pour l’échafaud.
Then somebody walked onto the stage with confident steps, I though “Is it really?…” when I saw him from afar, but even hearing his name made me shiver with anticipation: Hasan Kocamaz. Following the jazz standard “Body and Soul” embellished with Parisian melodies and Ötenel’s cornet playing (I concluded that harmonica might be the best accompanying instrument), we listened to an exciting rendition of a Ellington & Strayhorn composition called “Satin Doll” with the accompaniment of Neşet Ruacan. Drummer Can Kozlu and pianist Kürşat Deniz saluted the listener with their playing.
The first set came to an end without us noticing how fast the time went by. We learnt that jazz writer Saadettin Davran was Tuna Ötenel’s friend from elementary school during the break, and he introduced the only CD copy of the album “6 Kardeş”, in which Tuna Ötenel plays all the 6 instruments (including the winds, bass and drums) just like “6 Afro-American musicians do”. We hope that our voice is heard and hopefully some day we can listen to this rare album in which musical creativity reaches its peaks!
The second set went on just as incredible as the first one; listening to İmer Demirer on the trumpet after such a long time, accompanied by Sibel Köse’s vocals was great: “Everytime We Say Goodbye”, “Just Friends”, “All The Things You Are”, “Portrait in Black and White”… Another bonus of the evening was seeing Yahya Dai on the stage with his alto saxophone after watching the concert on our feet together, just when I was thinking it was pity he left the concert early!
There are some heroes in life. Those nameless heroes who look through the curtains and share the success that happens on the stage… Those people who we never want to be parted from… This person has been the same for Tuna Ötenel for many years: Berin Ötenel. Berin Ötenel shows that loving someone doesn’t simply mean holding their hands, but that love means being by someone’s side in their happiest, proudest and even in their hardest moments, supporting them through anything. She was watching her husband’s success with pride from the first lines in the audience.
There are so many things to write, discuss, to tell and to relay about this concert.
The whole evening can actually be summarized in one sentence:
“Dear readers and jazz lovers, Tuna Ötenel is back from where he left off after taking a brief break.”