Int'l Jazz Day to celebrate link with Turkish jazz
By Charles J. Gans, APNEW YORK--Pianist Herbie Hancock will celebrate the special connection between Turkey and jazz music forged decades ago when the Turkish ambassador opened his residence to white and black musicians at a time when segregation held sway in the U.S. capital.
February 20, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Hancock, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, is organizing a gala concert with jazz stars from around the world on April 30 at the famed Hagia Irene in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which has been designated the host city for the second annual U.N.-sanctioned International Jazz Day.
“There's an amazing history of the relationship between Turkey and jazz,” Hancock told The Associated Press in a telephone interview ahead of Tuesday's official announcement of the 2013 International Jazz Day program.
It began in the `30s and `40s when the two sons of Turkish Ambassador Mehmet Munir Ertegun pursued their passion for jazz by frequenting the capital's black neighborhoods to buy “race” records not available elsewhere, and attend concerts at the Howard Theater, a mecca for leading African-American entertainers.
Their father readily agreed when the brothers began inviting musicians to the ambassador's mansion for Sunday lunches followed by integrated jam sessions in an upstairs music parlor. The guests included jazz royalty from the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands such as Lester Young, Benny Carter, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges and Rex Stewart.
Hancock says he was particularly impressed by a story told to him by Turkey's current ambassador, Namik Tan, about how his predecessor responded whenever outraged Southern senators would complain that “a person of color was seen entering your house by the front door (which) is not a practice to be encouraged.”
The ambassador would offer a terse one-sentence reply such as: “In my home, friends enter by the front door — however we can arrange for you to enter from the back.”