Istanbul Sessions as Belgrade Sessions
Ilhan Ersahin has already been the topic of conversation here a couple of times. The reasons are many – innovator, discoverer, teacher. The occasion this time is the upcoming concert of his formation Istanbul Sessions in Belgrade on December 1st of this year. A logical continuation of last year’s explosive show during Belgrade Jazz Festival, that kept the audience at the America hall in the Youth Center on their feet for more than two hours. For a grand finale, we listened to the quartet (without Izzet Kizil) accompanied by Vasil Hadzimanov and Emile Parisien with variations on Etnik from the album Night Rider.
Here is a good moment to briefly introduce Ilhan Ersahin and the Istanbul Sessions quartet.
Ilhan Ersahin is a person with two home countries – Turkey and Sweden, but he has been living in New York for over 20 years, where he founded the club and later the label NUBLU. Soon after it opened its doors in 2002 it became a favourite spot for the indie community (regular guests include Moby, David Byrne, Caetano Veloso, Lou Reed); a label for independent music, carrying the same name, which gave a start to some of the most interesting contemporary musicians; a front man of a couple of bands and a virtuoso saxophone player.
Before Istanbul Sessions came to light, Ersahin had already formed a couple of other bands, such as Wax Poetic, where he plays with Norah Jones, Bebel Gilberto and a bunch of other important names in contemporary jazz. He travels around the world, participates in other musicians’ projects. Istanbul Sessions seems like the logical next step on his path.
We had the opportunity to come face to face with the music of Ilhan Ersahin and Wax Poetic 10 years ago live in Istanbul. And that changed everything.
The Istanbul Sessions quartet came together unintentionally and suddenly, but the bond between the musicians ends up being so strong, that they decide to continue.
Istanbul Sessions consists of Ilhan Ersahin on the saxophone, Alp Ersonmez on the bass, Turgut Alp Bekoglu on drums and Izzet Kizil on percussions. Already with their first album – simply titled Istanbul Sessions – recorded with Erik Truffaz on the trumpet, they blew us away. The album contained so much energy, so much power and love towards this city. An image of the city on a snowy morning, where you’re driving towards the airport on Kennedy boulevard, towards Taksim, listening to Freedom and you say to yourself – yes, this is life, right this moment.
The second album, Night Rider, came out in 2012 – with a completely different sound. 2012 is also when Nublu officially opened its Istanbul branch.
Ilhan Ersahin is a person of the world, in the literal sense of the word – he plays with world class musicians and travels around the globe, has bands in New York, Istanbul and Brazil. His scandinavian and turkish roots are apparent. The opening of his space in Istanbul was a gift to all, familiar with his music. That opening was the beginning of a period with constant trips to Istanbul and listening to amazing music in a micro environment. A few words about the concept behind the Nublu – there is no distinguished border between musicians and audience there. And the opportunity to be a part of meaningful things doesn’t come very often in life. The third album by Istanbul Sessions had its test listen there.
Life went on and Nublu in Turkey closed. In the mean time, with every following album, Istanbul Sessions were gaining more and more power. Istanbul Underground, their third studio album received an incredible reception in the press and was described as their most cinematographical album to this day – yes, the music paints pictures.
And they did not stop there and came out with the deep Solar Plexus (that we introduced here) this year. WIth such a mind blowing collection of guests, that you’d get startled by where it was you had ended up.
Here is the right place to say that this music is incredibly powerful live. We have been witnesses many times how rooms have blown up from the first couple of notes played. How the giving exceeds all expectations. How Kenny Wollesen, Arto Arto Tunçboyacıyan and Erik Truffaz play with enormous enjoyment with these musicians, experiencing the same emotion.
Last year Vasil Hadzimanov and Emile Parisien experienced the same in Belgrade. And now we all return – Ilhan Ersahin from New York, via Mexico towards Europe, Istanbul Sessions and us, so that we can experience the magic once again.