Bodrum is the yachting centre of Turkey and is nestled in hugging curves of the irregular Aegean coastline. The harbour is dominated by the 'Gulet', a large wooden motor sailor that offers chartered trips around the coast. The boats are beautifully made and quite unique, and it is this which makes Bodrum so special. It is not surprising then, that the glitz and glamour of the place attracts a crowd that wants more than just grunge bars with thumping sequenced sounds. Turkey straddles Europe and the Middle East, and although the poplulation is mainly muslim, it embraces jazz with European fervor. The festival has been in existence since 1974, and this spring they named it 'hadigari', which loosely translate as 'let's go'. The choice of styles of jazz played over the two week period certainly seemed to reflect this no holes barred approach. The evening kicked off with crooner Fatih Erkoc, accompanied by pianist Kerem Gorsev and his trio. After a selection of standards in the main stream style, Fatih revealed his passion for the blues with a swinging rendition of Route 66. He is also an accomplished trombone player, which added that extra depth and groove to make the evening a burner. The next evening saw Kerem Gorsev again, who doled out a diet of rich harmonies on top of complex latin rythmns.
The festival was an opportunity for local players to flex their musical muscles in front of an international crowd, and they certainly held their own. However, amongst the musicians names, appeared one of distinctly English origin. A American tenor player by the name of Ricky Ford, who displayed remarkable versatility in supporting Feyza, a female jazz singer with a strong voice and great delivery. The next day Ricky was back in the front line of a modern Turkish jazz line up with Ali Perret the leader on piano. This band was not going to pander to the audience, and dived straight into original compositions, which were modern and modal. The evening was dominated by drawn out duels between Coltrane type squawks from Ricky Ford and the fluid electric tones of guitarist Sarp Maden, a talented player with a distinctive sound in the school of Mike Stern.
The festival reigned on for several more days and included a Balkan folk band, the singer and pianist collaboration Nukhet Ruacan and Nilufer Verdi, and finished with a duo featuring Yildiz Ibrahimova on vocals. Altogether the festival was well organized, offered variety without steering too far away from jazz, and above all showed that Turks can really strut their stuff when it comes it. The setting was of course out of this world.