E-mail your contributions *here*

8 March 2012

19th Izmir European Jazz Festival – 3-17 March 2012

From our guest blogger: Imogen Reed

Either you were there or you should accept commiserations for having missed it. The opening concert of the 19th Izmir European Jazz Festival, which started on 3 March and plays on until 17 March, celebrated all that is jazz by inviting Amsterdam-based band Arifa and special guest Senol Filiz to play for its opening concert.

Arifa is made up of a Turk, an Iraqi, a Romanian and a Dutchman. They, along with their Turkish guest, set the stage on the opening night by encapsulating exactly what the festival aims to portray; acts that represent rich collaborations of jazz musicians from Europe and Turkey. For their part, Arifa improvises “on an electronic and modern base combined with Arabian, Anatolian and Balkan melodies”. Their music is just as intense as that description suggests, with qanun, oud, saxophone, clarinet, percussion and the guest ney, or flute, interplaying to work up a musical delight that the audience savoured.

If you haven’t already, call Biletix or the venue itself to buy a ticket for coming concerts! It might be rainy and cloudy out there at the moment, but there’s no point hiding inside lounging around and drinking Turkish tea all cosy and duvet-ed up on an organic mattress, lost inside a Pamuk novel, when leading jazz cats are just down by the waterfront.

The Izmir European Jazz Festival is a recipe that has been winning for years; this is the nineteenth one. The main venue is the fresh, light and bright Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Centre. Once a tram terminal, the site was developed by architect Tevfik Tozkoparan and completed little more than three years ago. Nodding to the eponymous Turkish composer, the centre is now highly revered as an arts venue - some even say it is Turkey’s best arts centre - but it is also intended as a place to drink coffee, take in an exhibition, hang out. Concert-goers will be pleased to hear, according to Frommers What’s On website, that the concert hall boasts “perfect acoustics”.

What’s on?
Back to the festival. Altogether there are nine concerts at the jazz festival. Other highlights include names that those familiar with the jazz circuit will recognise, including the Instant Composers’ Pool (or ICP) Orchestra and the Paganini Trio (see below), as well as the Geraldine Laurent Trio and the Tomasz Stanko Quartet on Saturday 10 and Thursday 15 March, respectively.

The ICP Orchestra will be playing on Monday 12 March in the festival’s second concert to mark Dutch-Turkish relations (the first being Arifa’s opening concert). The ICP Orchestra has been improvising in one shape or form for many years after being founded by Misha Mengenberg and Han Bennink in the sixties. Today it says it is “a mixed ensemble: part jazz band, part chamber orchestra”. Its music is pacy, sometimes wacky and coolly jazzy.

The final act on Saturday 17 March sees three Turkish musicians play with special guest Austrian saxophonist Wolfgang Puschnig, who the festival organizers say is one of the leading saxophonists of our time. The places the percussionist, pianist and violinist take you to are enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Add a great saxophonist into the mix and you know there is going to be a truly astounding climax to this wonderful festival.

What else?
The festival is being organized by the by Izmir Foundation for Culture Arts and Education with Turkish, Dutch, German, Polish, Italian and French sponsorship. As well as laying on musical treats it in the form of nine concerts, it also has educational objectives. Some of the musicians playing at the festival will be holding workshops. These include an Open Jazz Orchestra Workshop, which will bring participants onto the festival stage on 9 March after a week of working together. Such workshops are a great opportunity for musicians to meet, work and network and sometimes leads to exposure and further collaboration. Five seminars see jazz historian Francesco Martinelli divide the history of jazz into a five-part seminar.

The festival also includes the 10th Jazz Poster Competition. Winners were given their awards on the opening night, but the entries can still be seen at an exhibition in the Ahmed Adnan Saygun Centre.