No sooner had the 2020 İKSV Istanbul Music Festival got under way in September than the İKSV Jazz Festival popped up – like a most welcome jack-in-the-box (or should that be jazz-in-the-box?) – on October 3.
Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) and sponsored by Garanti BBVA (as it has been for the past 23 years), with the support of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Istanbul Jazz Festival will be communing with audiences on a virtual basis until November 3, 2020.
Recordings of the festival concerts are available for us to enjoy on our screens at the following address: online.iksv.org
The opening concert was given at Sultan Park (in the Swissôtel The Bosphorus) by Selen Gülün, along with the musicians of her project and two guest singers, Ece Göksu and Sibel Köse. The concert recording, which begins with some appealing graphics, continues with speeches by Harun İzer (İKSV Jazz Festival Director) and Garanti BBVA Sponsorship and Events Director Ersin Babaoğlu. Notice, by the way, that the dates Mr İzer gives for the availability of the concerts online have since been changed: the last date is in fact as I have listed above.
In the first set (which starts at 09:17) we hear the vocalist, composer and arranger Selen Gülün sing while sitting at the piano. The accompanying quintet, meanwhile, consists of Barış Doğukan Yazıcı on trumpet, Serhan Erkol on saxophone, Kağan Yıldız on double bass and Ferit Odman on drums. All are well-respected figures in their own fields.
Selen first sings a relaxed number (with lyrics in Turkish) from her album Başka (2013). Afterwards, she announces that the set will be a retrospective of her work so far. This is followed by Internal Pain, one of her oldest compositions, a new song by the name of Kapı (‘The Door’), Duality from her 2019 album Many Faces, and WBG (‘White, Blue, Green’).
Ece Göksu joins the party for the second set. She sings the first number, Bırak Gitsin, in Turkish (this starts at 44:27, and features a nice piano solo from Selen). Most of her set, however, consists of jazz classics such as Love For Sale and If You Could See Me Now sung in English. At one point, Ece announces that these two are arrangements made by Selen last year for a project involving the Karşıyaka Chamber Orchestra in İzmir. This made me wonder what happened there – I would be interested to hear more. The crisp playing of all the musicians in these two songs is worth lending an ear to: double-bass player Kağan, in particular, appears to be really enjoying himself. Ece apparently learned her art in the United States, and it shows – in her vocal range and stage presence as well as in her diction.
Sibel Köse then arrives on stage, and begins her set at 1:09:31 with All Of You, a duet between herself and Ece. If You Never Fell In Love With Me, beginning at 1:15:35, is the first of the songs she sings on her own. Her performance is, as we have come to expect, polished and consummately professional. At the same time she comes over as a person of sincerity who genuinely wants us to take pleasure in life. I highly recommend that you listen to the delightful nonsense-syllable passage she launches into at 1:20:45 (‘Di doo di doo dah’, etc, etc). With Wild Is the Wind (at 1:22:46) she takes a shaker into her hand, and from then on she and the whole group wow us, wobble us and rock us towards a magnificent finale.
I will end, if I may, with an academic aside concerning a word that even the Deaf Sultan (to coin a Turkish phrase) must have heard by now: the word ‘virtual’. For those readers who share my fascination with etymology, I have reassuring news: if you suspected all along that ‘virtual’ was connected somewhere along the line with ‘virtue’, you would be right. According to Etymonline, the online etymology dictionary, ‘virtual’ comes from the Medieval Latin virtualis, itself derived from the Latin virtus, which literally means ‘manliness, manhood’ – or, more figuratively, ‘excellence, potency, efficacy’. The meaning, ‘being something in essence or effect, though not actually or in fact’, is first seen in the mid-15th century, probably as a result of the use of virtus in the sense of ‘capable of producing a certain effect’. The first use of ‘virtual’ in the sense of ‘not physically existing, but made to appear by software’ was recorded in 1959.
So there we have it. 2020 has not been an easy year for musicians, and a gypsy drummer of my acquaintance is now looking for work as a waiter in order to feed his family. Much gratitude to anyone and everyone who provides employment for our musician brothers and sisters in a time of extreme leanness. Let us make the most of the İKSV Jazz Festival while we have it, and give thanks that it is happening at all.