Queen of Improvisation Jazz’s Journey to Turkey

Doğaçlama Kraliçesi Caz’ın Türkiye Yolculuğu

Jazz music is an original music genre based on improvisation. Although it may seem messy, it actually has an order in itself and moments when it finally comes together. For that recovery, it must first find the rhythm it feels and discovers its own story. In short, jazz music is a bit like life and a bit like a person.

The first names that come to mind when jazz music is mentioned in Turkey can be listed as follows; Ahmet Ertegün, Kerem Görsev, Ferit Odman, and İlham Gencer

Jazz Music in Turkey

Turkey’s first jazz club was opened in 1956 by Hasan Kocamaz in Bebek. If we go back to the previous years, jazz music started to show itself with dance orchestras in the 1930s in Turkey. It went up the chart a little higher in the 1940s and became one of the most loved music genres in the 70s. Sevinç Tevs, the first jazz music interpreter in Turkey, attracts great attention by making a jazz program on Istanbul Radio together with İlham Gencer. If we go back to the 70s, it is said that the Jazz Semai album, which has a very important place in the history of Turkish music, made a great contribution to the popularity of jazz in Turkey.

Ahmet Ertegün

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to use the term “father of jazz” for Ahmet Ertegün, a Turkish-American music producer and founder of Atlantic Records, who was born in Istanbul in 1923. Ahmet Ertegün, who produced the albums of names such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis, played a major role in the fame of many names such as The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder.

Ahmet Ertegün, who is the same age as Republic, worked as a volunteer cultural ambassador for the promotion of Turkey, although he spent most of his life outside of Turkey due to his father’s job. Ahmet Ertegün, of course, does not walk this road by himself. Together with his brother Nasuhi Ertegün, they started to be interested in jazz when their father Münir Ertegün was appointed as the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the United States in 1934. In short, the step that jazz music has taken to its homeland is conducive to Turkey’s meeting with jazz.

Kerem Görsev

Turkish jazz artist, pianist, and composer Kerem Görsev, born in 1961, is one of the first names that come to mind when jazz music is mentioned in Turkey. Working with the philharmonic orchestras of many countries such as St. Petersburg, London, and Macedonia, Görsev has spent a lot of effort to promote jazz music in Turkey, and we can say that this effort definitely pays off.

Ferit Odman

Born in 1982, jazz drummer and composer Ferit Odman started his jazz education in Sweden in 1999. Having successfully completed the Jazz Performance department at Istanbul Bilgi University, which he entered with a scholarship, the artist recorded albums with names such as Önder Focan and went on stages with many valuable jazz musicians such as Kerem Görsev.

İlham Gencer

İlham Gencer

Jazz pianist İlham Gencer, who was born in Istanbul in 1926, made significant contributions to the spread of jazz music in Turkey. İlham Gencer’s musical experience is based on improvisation, just like jazz itself. Mentioning in an interview that he had not received any training and had no musical notation knowledge, Gencer stated that he played improvised. In addition to being a jazz pianist, he took a permanent place in Turkish music history in 1961 when he sang the song “Bak Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş”, written by Fecri Ebcioğlu in Turkish to Bob Azzam’s French song.


Pera Palace Hotel, which has hosted many balls, invitations, and concerts with its 130-year history, continues to shed light on the history, culture, and entertainment rooms of Istanbul from the past to the present. Hosting especially jazz music and the brightest entertainments of the period in the early 1920s, Pera Palace Hotel welcomes its guests with a live jazz music event at the Orient Bar every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday between 21.00-23.00. You can book your place to experience an unforgettable music night at Pera Palace Hotel; You can immerse yourself in the delightful melodies of jazz music.


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