February 17, 2011

New Wave of Jazz Musicians Seeks Niche in Istanbul

Jazz is a fluid genre, and the jazz scene in Istanbul is fluid, too, with new venues offering a fresh generation of Turkish players a chance to perform original compositions, even as more established artists wonder where the audience has gone.

The saxophonist Yahya Dai was leading his combo on a recent Sunday afternoon at Tamirane, a former water-purification warehouse remodeled into an industrial-décor cafe space on Bilgi University’s Santral Campus. The Sunday afternoon jazz brunch draws an artsy crowd of customers who snack on pizzas, beer and 20-lira, or $12.60, cocktails with names like Orange Blossom.

“You might think that the jazz scene in Istanbul is growing, in terms of there being more clubs, but the audience is not really keeping pace,” said Mr. Dai, who taught himself to play sax when he was 17 years old. “It was 1981, and I heard a song on the radio and said, “Oh hell — what is that? It was Grover Washington Jr. playing ‘Winelight.’ I’ll never forget it.”

Mr. Dai is no doubt inspiring young Turks to pick up his instrument.

“Young people are getting more and more curious about jazz,” he said, “but there are so many young musicians now, and not that many places for all of them to play. I came from Ankara years ago, and you could play at the same club three times a week. Now it’s once a month.”

Read more on the New York Times: New Wave of Jazz Musicians Seeks Niche in Istanbul


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