I’m looking forward to the jazz concert of tomorrow evening at the Cemil Topuzlu Open-air Theater in Harbiye. Together with lots of Turkish and foreign jazz lovers I will enjoy the performance of three of the jazz world’s living legends: Marcus Miller, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.
For me this will be the main highlight of the Istanbul Jazz Festival.
Their project during the 18th Istanbul International Jazz Festival is called “Tribute to Miles”, a homage to the legendary jazz trumpet player Miles Davis on the 20th anniversary of his death. The premiere of this Tribute to Miles will be in Istanbul!
I was unable to attend the press conference on Monday night where the artists reflected on the inspiration behind the concert and their own personal relationships with a man who touched and influenced many. Therefore I quote the paper Today’s Zaman’s article on the press conference.
“Assuming directorship of the project, Miller, who was mentored by Davis at a young age before going on to collaborate with stars such as Aretha Franklin, David Sanborn and Davis himself, reflected that “the biggest problem for us is, how do you look back and pay a tribute to someone who never liked to look back?”
Miller went on to add that, despite this, he thinks the group strikes the perfect balance between paying homage and staying within Davis’ spirit of always looking forward, “it ends up being easy as we just imagine he’s in front of us — if he wouldn’t like it, we won’t do it, and if he would, we will. What we will try and do is to take recognizable records and put our souls into them: play a little bit of the past and the future at the same time.”
Twelve-time Grammy winner Hancock, who started playing with Davis in his 20s said: “I don’t miss Miles Davis because to me it’s as if he’s still here. Anyone who has been influenced by Miles can still feel his presence. Certain things I learned from Miles have now become part of my DNA, affecting not only how I look at my music but how I look at my life. Miles’ music lessons are essentially life lessons. When we held our first rehearsal we didn’t lift an instrument, we just talked about him as a person, the things he loved — boxing and cooking. Miles was an extraordinary cook. He was also very interested in women,” he added with a laugh.
Legendary saxophone virtuoso, Shorter, the veteran of the group at 77 years of age, said that the challenge of the trio’s task is to play everything at the same time. “Jazz is the word for singularity and for something that has not been thought of to celebrate life. You play jazz without prejudice, bias and selfishness — essentially all the things wrong with life. At this point, however, it’s not true, I believe, that too many chefs in the kitchen spoil the broth, especially when the soup is the universe,” he added.
The band, Miller explained, will feature himself on bass guitar and bass clarinet, Hancock on piano, Shorter on saxophone, and two young musicians, Sean Jones and Sean Rickman, on trumpet and percussion, respectively. “The funny thing,” Hancock said with a laugh, “is that we all used to be the youngest guys in the group. Then something happened. We were all young when we worked with Miles; he was a mentor to us and that was a trait of his, he loved to nurture and help and support young musicians so that was in our minds when we decided to include two young guys in the group.”
When asked how Istanbul came about as the venue for the premiere — did they choose İstanbul or did Istanbul choose them — Miller answered that it was a little bit of both: “Each of us have played in Istanbul as part of the jazz festival many times over the years and it’s a great audience that we have come to love. When I say great audience I’m not referring to clapping and shrieking and carrying on but in the striking of a nice balance between careful, appreciative listening and enthusiasm for the performance — that is what made Istanbul a great choice for us.”
Asked to explain the group’s own perceptions of reflecting on the past and the scariness of the future, Shorter commented: “I embrace the greatness of the past — all of it. But I take with me what I need from the past as I would take a flashlight into the unknown.”
Miller further added: “As jazz musicians, the nature of this industry means everything we are used to is changing. In the past, for example, if we were recording a CD, then we would give it to a record company and they would disperse it and we would take a backseat. Now all of that is changing; it can be scary, of course, but we have to approach change with energy and enthusiasm — jazz prepares you for that.”
Responding to a question as to whether there is a Turkish artist Davis could be compared to, Hancock replied, “I know various Turkish musicians and many more around the world but never in my life have I met anyone I could compare with Miles, and I doubt I ever will.”
The press conference was followed by a bass guitar workshop held by Miller, an event attended by 50 lucky music lovers who managed to get early reservations.
The musical retrospective, “Tribute to Miles,” following its premiere in Istanbul, will be presented in eight more concerts during July.
Amongst them leading European festivals such as Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy), North Sea Jazz Festival (the Netherlands), Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland) and Jazz à Vienne Festival (France).
Tickets for Thursday’s concert at 9 pm, with prices ranging from TL 56.50 to TL 165, can be purchased from the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art (IKSV) headquarters in Şişhane, Beyoğlu.
Or online via