Musical shares: Jazz, please, Louise

Avishai Cohen's not-quite-jazz concert at the Swissôtel in Maçka

By John Shakespeare Dyson | July 7, 2018

The fourth concert I attended during the İKSV Jazz Festival took place at the Sultan Park in the grounds of the Swissôtel in Maçka, above Dolmabahçe Palace, on Tuesday July 3. The performers on this occasion were the double-bassist Avishai Cohen and his group.

The concert started well: Mr Cohen has a gift for creating instrumental textures with a Middle-Eastern flavour. He is deservedly famous as a virtuoso of the double-bass (in addition to playing it, he also taps it, slaps it and strokes it); not only this, but he plays the guitar, and is no mean singer to boot. The harmonies he and his group sang in contained a lot of open fourths and fifths, and the keyboard operator produced some agreeable tone qualities; all this combined to give the music a hyped-up Oriental flavour that I thought most original and attractive. My companion for this concert was Jewish, and was thus able to confirm that the language in which some of the numbers were being sung was Hebrew.

But it was not long before I perceived a look of dissatisfaction on his face. ‘I wasn’t expecting this,’ he said. ‘I thought he was going to play jazz.’ And I had to admit that as piece followed piece, the music turned a sharp (or flat?) corner in the direction of rock. Mr Cohen invited the members of the audience to come to the front of the stage. The front of the stage, however, was a very narrow space, so some of his admirers who wished to witness the performance at close quarters had to stand in the aisle down the centre of the seating area, thus obstructing the view of some of the seated members of the audience.

Mr Cohen told us that part of his ancestry came from İzmir, so he felt a particular closeness to Turkey. He obviously wished to be taken to heart by the audience, and complimented us on the enthusiastic way in which he is received in İstanbul. I will draw a veil over his last few numbers (which many in the audience obviously enjoyed, and some danced to), and instead entertain the reader with a couple of his jazzier, and in my view more musically satisfactory, performances of yesteryear.

In the first (which is short), he is giving a demonstration of that total engagement with his instrument that is a feature of his outstanding musicianship; the hand and arm movements are also elegant and expressive. The name of the piece, in which he is accompanied by the other members of the Avishai Cohen Trio, is ‘Remembering’:

And now an extended performance: watch out for the lovely double-bass solos that begin at 17:17 and 38:36:

Fans of his singing, as well as of his playing, will enjoy hearing him perform at the 2017 Alfa Jazz Festival with an accompanying orchestra. Here is the full concert:

And so I conclude my reviews of concerts in the 25th İKSV Jazz Festival. My thanks go to everyone involved – and especially to the endlessly obliging and efficient Ms Derya Bozcuk and her charming co-workers. Although I cannot unfortunately thank them individually, I would like to express my appreciation of the many people – employees either of İKSV or of the venues themselves – who so courteously handed me my tickets, looked after me and tactfully redirected me as I stumbled towards the wrong seat in the various concert halls and outdoor arenas.

The Festival, which is due to finish on July 17, takes within its ambit a number of performance spaces all over the city. Apart from those already cited in my various blogs (especially the first, which contains a list of selected concerts), there are the following:

– numerous places in Kadıköy and Moda as part of the Gece Gezmesi (‘Night Out’)

– Fenerbahçe Khalkedon in Fener Kalamış Caddesi, Fenerbahçe Mahallesi, Kadıköy

– Fenerbahçe Parkı in Tur Yolu Sokak, Fenerbahçe Mahallesi, Kadıköy

– Beykoz Kundura in Süreyya Ilmen Caddesi, Yalıköy Mahallesi, Beykoz

– Beylikdüzü Yaşam Vadisi Parkı in Atatürk Bulvarı, Cumhuriyet Mahallesi, Beylikdüzü.

Special thanks must go to Garanti Bank, the sponsors, for their valued support. And last but not least, a big ‘thank you’ to the sound technicians, lighting assistants, manhandlers of equipment on and off stages, clerical staff, couriers, transport operatives, security personnel, concierges and cleaners whose efforts contributed to the musicians’ performances, the audience’s enjoyment of them, and everyone’s safety.

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