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İstanbul’u Caz Şarkılarıyla Adımlamak

Blog
İstanbul’u Caz Şarkılarıyla Adımlamak

03.12.2018

Text: Artemis Günebakanlı

28th Istanbul Jazz Festival yet again transformed the city to its most attractive state, “the jazz state”. Many songs accompanied us during the 10 days festival marathon, either on our headphones or our personal inner radio.

Most of us have a dedicated song or album in mind, for a special place in this city. Kanat Atkaya, Ahmet Uluğ, İlhan Erşahin, Rana Uludağ, Elif Çağlar, Ferit Odman, Zülal Kalkandelen, Sumru Ağıryürüyen and Sami Kısaoğlu share spots from their own jazz map of Istanbul.

Kanat Atkaya, Archaeology Museum
Ben Webster – Time on My Hands

The garden of Archaeology Museum was a shelter for me from the end of the 80’s until the beginning of the 90’s. I was an avid rocker and my walkman (soon to be replaced by a discman) was filled with heavy stuff. But when I sat and drank tea (sometimes mixed with cognac) in that silent, extraordinary garden, I always counted on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Ben Webster’s Soulville. Both albums are still an emergency exit for me. I love the unique atmosphere that Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, Stan Levey and the great Ben Webster created on Soulville. Tombs, giant sycamore trees and “Time on My Hands…”

Ahmet Uluğ, Uskudar
Herbie Mann – Uskudar

In terms of flute in jazz, the first name that comes to mind is Herbie Mann. Released in 1967, this album was produced by Nesuhi Ertegün and Arif Mardin. The latter also arranged the song.

İlhan Erşahin, Asmalımescit
İlhan Erşahin’s Istanbul Sessions – Alley Cats

The old Asmalimescit hood was just so cool and inspiring, really sad to have lost it. But I know one day it will be back, perhaps as Nublu. Our Babylon nights there and just being around that hood inspired our first three Istanbul Sessions records.

Rana Uludağ, Beyoğlu Balık Pazarı / Beyoglu Fish Market
Buddy Rich – Blowin’ the Blues Away

When I was little, my mom had a shop in Beyoglu Fish Market. I always lost my way among grocery and fish stalls because I was short, and I always found myself crying and asking for directions. When I listened to this track and the album, I was passing through Fish Market after years. I felt like Blowin’ the Blues Away became a soundtrack for those childhood memories.

Elif Çağlar, Balat
Billy Strayhorn – Lush Life

When I was living in Istanbul, I used to go to Balat on free days. The tired but still graceful, old buildings carrying the load of passing years reminded me of the melancholic Billy Strayhorn classic, “Lush Life”. Lush Life is the song of Balat for me.

Ferit Odman, TRT Istanbul Radio
Count Basie – Lil’ Darlin’

I love the gorgeous building of TRT Istanbul Radio, the place that gave birth to radio and Big Band culture in Turkey. I think Count Basie’s unforgettable melody is engraved in the walls of the radio studios in Harbiye.

Zülal Kalkandelen, Aya Irini
Bohren und Der Club of Gore – Constant Fear

For me, the garden of Aya Irini pairs with Bohren und Der Club of Gore’s “Constant Fear”. Since the venue hosts classical music concerts in International Istanbul Music Festival, it’s expected to be associated with classical music but I made it a habit to go there early before the concerts and listen to this song.

Constant Fear makes you feel a little uneasy but it also has the peculiar hopeful feeling of the blue hour. This contrast always amazes me. The music is in tune with the spectacular solitude and stillness of Aya Irini. Bohren un Der Club of Gore mixes dark ambient and jazz with an authentic and bold approach. They say that their music is a dark kind of jazz, carrying a soul permeated with disasters. When I interviewed one of the band’s founding members, Christopher Clöser, he said that they suited their music well with outer space, hell or a bar at the end of the world. I don’t know why but I like slow ballads with dark feelings. The garden of Aya Irini resembles neither hell nor outer space. Maybe we could relate it to a bar where people go when the world ends. You are running out of time, you step into the garden and let go of all your worries and give yourself to the music. That’s how “constant fear” ends.


Sumru Ağıryürüyen, Yenikoy Bilsak Club
Ella Fitzgerald – Lullaby of Birdland

It was the second half of the 80’s, the times when I tried to figure out what was what. I remember hearing it from a friend whom I was making music with, Nüket Aruca. When Nüket sang, her soul paired with your soul and with souls of all the singers who sang that song before. Strong, simple, soulful. She ignited Istanbul jazz scene like a hasty star and left. We lost Nüket in a car accident in 1987. The venue was the summer place of Bilsak, a pioneer that embraced jazz in Yenikoy. (I take pride in having shared the stage with terrific musicians.) I think she and dear Tuna Ötenel played together at this beautiful venue. If only we could hear this song from her voice again.

Sami Kısaoğlu, Beyoglu/Taksim
Sidney Bechet – Wild Cat Blues
Sidney Bechet – Kansas City Blues

Nazım Hikmet mentions Beyoglu’s famous Maksim club in his 1930 poem “835 Lines”. When the club was opened by Frederick Bruce Thomas, a lot of very good jazz musicians played there.
Introducing Ottoman Empire and Turkey to entertainment and jazz culture, Frederick Bruce Thomas was referred to as “The Sultan of Jazz” in New York Times on the 8th of July, 1928. After 1920, Maksim club hosted very talented jazz musicians escaping from Russia. It’s among the first venues to have jazz on its program. In this parallel, I would suggest Sidney Bechet’s “Wild Cat Blues” and “Kansas City Man Blues” for the list. A musician who perfectly reflects that time, the era of jazz.




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