Milestone anniversaries are important in life. The 30th or 40th anniversaries of albums, 50th anniversaries o bands, “artistic years” of musicians. In such content-rich examples, especially summaries of musicians’ entire musical career, are shared with the audiences through special projects and are celebrated with various dedicated programs. IKSV Istanbul Jazz Festival, whose 25th anniversary we celebrate this year, started with a very successful and unforgettable opening night.
The evening, presented by Yekta Kopan, started with the speeches of IKSV General Manager Görgün Taner’s and London Jazz Festival’s Programming Director Pelin Opçin’s (who will pass on her responsibility as the director of the jazz festival to her colleague Harun İzer this year). Hülya Tunçağ, whose accumulation of knowledge on the subject is impressive, enriched the evening with her narration about the birth of jazz in Turkey and its past, right by Yekta Kopan’s side on the stage.
The Lifetime Achievement Awards, which are a tradition of the opening nights of the festival, were given to Nezih Yeşilnil, Ahmet Faik Şener; “Balarısı Ahmet” and Şevket Uğurluer. The excitement of the musicians as they received their awards was a sight to behold.
Hülya Tunçağ reminded that jazz music arrived in Turkey in the mid-20s as the evening started and the first “generational” performance of the evening started with Erol Pekcan, Kudret Öztoprak and Tuna Ötenel, who released the first ever Turkish jazz album “Jazz Semai” and was honored with a commemoration evening at Salon IKSV as we wrote about in Jazz Dergisi previously. Tuna Ötenel, whom we know as a pianist, played the pocket trumpet during the evening and was accompanied by Emin Fındıkoğlu on the piano, Volkan Hürsever on the double bass and Ateş Tezer on the drums. The first piece of the evening was Ötenel’s “Aurore” from his 1998 Aura album “L’Ecume De Vian – Vian Köpüğü”… One of the details that rendered this piece rather special was that Pierre Michelot, who wrote the original score of Louis Malle’s unforgettable movie “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud” with Miles Davis, worked with Ötenel in“Vian Köpüğü”. The second gift of the band was Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be”, performed together by Ötenel and Fındıkoğlu on the piano. Ötenel showed all music lovers what a good decision it was to focus his strength on the trumpet in addition to the piano, of which he proved to be a master of during his “Aurore” performance. All lovers of music would like to see a trumpet album from Ötenel, what do you think?
Ötenel and Fındıkoğlu left the stage as they received a standing ovation and were followed by a Kerem Görsev Trio that came together after many years (about 18 years since their album release, and about 25 years as Ateş Tezer + Kerem Görsev explained). The musicians who recorded “Existence” together, Volkan Hürsever, Ateş Tezer and Görsev, (if my ears serve me right) played Görsev’s “I Remember Your Face” from his “I Love May” album. The band surprised the audience by playing another piece instead of one from “Existence” album as everybody’s eyes, hearts and souls looked for Reyent Bölükbaşı. I believe Bölükbaşı watched from heaven with happiness and peace in his heart as this band played as excited and as passionately as they did 25 years ago.
Following Kerem Görsev Trio’s ballads and mid-tempo pieces, the first up-tempo piece came from Önder Focan with “Kinetik”. Önder Focan was accompanied by Yahya Dai on the saxophone, Şenova Ülker on the trumpet, Ozan Musluoğlu on the double bass and one of the best jazz drummers from Izmir, Ayhan Öztoplu, during “Kinetik”, which I believe is the most successful piece in his album “Sekiz”. The concert hall was filled with applause after Focan’s solo, who was followed by an example from the younger side of his generation on the stage. Nilüfer Verdi, a Berklee graduate and Turkey’s first female jazz pianist, stepped on the stage as she was accompanied by Kristian Lind, whom we know from his work with Yürüyen Merdiven, on the double bass and Burak Cihangirli, who is a talented drummer whose technique I admire the most in the new generation of musicians. They performed “Bee Talk” from Verdi’s 1997 album “Mânâ” as they fueled the evening’s fire.
Enver Muhamedi, who is one of the most prominent double bass players from the younger generation, was on the stage next as a part of Ayşe Tütüncü Trio. Tamer Temel, one of the 2-3 incredible musicians in the country, accompanied them on the soprano saxophone as they played Tütüncü’s “Girit’e Mektup” from her album “Carnivalesque” that was released ten years ago. The dialogue between Ayşe Tütüncü and Enver Muhamedi and their shared feeling of rhythm showed that the band can perform for many years without ever needing a drummer.
Vocalist Ayşegül Yeşilnil, double bass player Nezih Yeşilnil, drummer Deniz Dündar and guitarist Neşet Ruacan stepped on the stage next to perform the 1928 jazz standard “Softly as In A Morning Sunrise”, written by Oscar Hammerstein II and composed by Sigmund Ronberg. Ayşegül Yeşilnil’s scats were reassuring, though the general vocals were questionable, while the Oriental-influenced intro of Nezih Yeşilnil was interesting. I was left in awe by Deniz Dündar’s fiery performance. I would like to hear a different arrangement of another jazz standard from this band.
Okay Temiz slowed down the heart beats with his music, proving that his music is a true example to Turkish jazz, and created an atmosphere almost similar to a ritual gathering. Temiz was accompanied by Barış Ertürk on the saxophone and Yahya Dai on EWI as they fused “Va Va Va” from the 1989 album “Dervish Service” and “Kabak Ağa”, which I heard in an old mix tape for the first time, and proved the audience how creative they are while playing classical jazz, contemporary jazz and free jazz together in one performance. I look forward to the band’s first album that they will (or should, in my opinion) record.
When I saw the poster of the concert, I first thought that TRT Light Music and Jazz Orchestra (or TRT Big Band as everybody lovingly calls them) would perform throughout the evening as they would be accompanied by guest soloists. However, TRT Big Band, one of the best ensembles—a real “All-Star team”— as far as jazz music in Turkey is concerned, performed during the second half of the concert as they are joined by established named of Turkish jazz music such as Sibel Köse, Ayşe Gencer and Bozkurt İlham Gencer. “Ding Dong Ding”, written and composed by Bob Brookmeyer as I learnt from the maestro Kamil Özler after the concert, and “Mr. Iron Soldier”, composed and arranged by the maestro himself, were the favorites of the second part of the concert. TRT Big Band will continue to perform (if there isn’t a general schedule change) on TRT Istanbul Radio every last Wednesday of the month. A personal note to myself: “Emre, don’t ever forget to mention what a great jazz showman İlham Gencer is at his 91 years of age and how he got all the members of the audience on their feet with his incredible energy!”
Istanbul Jazz Festival started with an incredible evening on the 26th of June at Zorlu Performance Arts Center’s Main Stage/Turkcell Stage as I tried to relay the details to you. I wrote above that “Milestone anniversaries are important in life”… Istanbul “Caz/Jazz” Festival will celebrate such an important milestone as its 25th anniversary under the creative slogan of “Jazz ‘and More’” with the performances of Nick Cave, who makes as jazz-adjacent alternative music in genres such as “post-punk”, “alternative rock”, “garage rock”, “gothic rock” and “experimental rock” as I learnt after a quick internet search, and Robert Plant as headliners. I will remind that Robert Plant is the vocalist of the famous 1970s rock band Led Zeppelin. It is possible to see the other names on the 25th Istanbul Jazz Festival’s poster.
One of the 3-5 concerts that will embody mostly jazz in a rather big gathering of names on the festival poster took place last night. Many thanks to the musicians who graced the stage in a photo similar to the famous “A Great Day in Harlem” photograph for this beautiful evening filled with jazz.
See you at the concerts!