Izmir European Jazz Festival and Istanbul Club Scene
“ The lively music scene of Istanbul... can boast several significant additions... The first one is without doubt Nardis... ”
Izmir, the ancient Smyrne, is an Egean town, to us music fanatics especially relevant for having given birth to the Rebetiko style. Now after wars and ethnic divisions there isn’t any Greek community anymore, and to “feel” the city one has to dig deep into the Turkish ancient market, away from the newish seafront boulevards. The European Jazz Festival opened there with a “Play Bach” concert that combined the talents of French pianist Jacques Loussier and his trio with the classical duo of twins Guher and Suher Pekinel.
Loussier sold millions of records since the early sixties with his Bach in Jazz interpretations. I find amazing that the authoritative Dictionnaire du Jazz didn’t include an entry about him, so the best assessment of his early work comes from Donald Clarke: “It was less po-faced than many classical pilfering, and there is no doubt about his ability to swing”. Bach himself was not averse to catering to the masses’ taste, and maybe would have approved. His original trio featured Pierre Michelot, and was clearly inspired by John Lewis and George Shearing. Later Loussier did it again with Vivaldi, which I found predictably worse, but in the 90’s after a long period of woodshedding he tackled modern composers like Satie and Ravel. The Pekinel sisters have a distinguished career in classical music, as hard-working and thorough in the rehearsal as light and perfectly synchronized even in the most complex passages. Their duo is a tight unit, and so is Loussier’s trio, in a very different way; so the difference in time conception between the two groups combined was even more striking. There are volume problems – playing with bass and drums is an art by itself and Loussier did it all his life – but above all the idea of how to tackle the tempo is irredeemably different. The difficulties began immediately in the collaboration: when Loussier showed up for the first rehearsal, the scores were notated in numbered chords for the left hand, as jazzmen do with a degree of approximation, and the classical pianists asked – presumably in unison – yes, but which NOTES we play?? “I guess I have to write down everything, huh?” answered Loussier... If the music didn’t jell up in the shared numbers, despite the efforts of excellent bassist Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac, the most interesting effect was in the classical pieces that the duo played by themselves – the effort toward a jazz style brought a bouncing, lively quality to the music which remained flawlessly played and sharply focused. The Pekinel are not jazz players, nor they want to be, as they pursue their brilliant classical career, but they are searching for something new, a different synthesis, and this is a very healthy attitude. I for one would be curious about them tackling some of the composers that in the XX century tried to wed classical compositions and Turkish rhythms, like Muammer Sun for example, with our without re-arrangements.