As the sun set over the Bosporus, three generations of American jazz greats ranging from Wayne Shorter to Branford Marsalis to Esperanza Spalding came together at the home of U.S. Consul General Scott Kilner for a prelude celebration of UNESCO International Jazz Day. Observed in over 196 countries on April 30 of each year, International Jazz Day acknowledges the unifying power of jazz, the musical art form born in America and enjoyed worldwide. This year, Istanbul serves as the host city of International Jazz Day; a nod to the musical legacy of Ahmet and Nesih Ertugun, the founders of Atlantic Records, who as the adolescent sons of the Turkish Ambassador to Washington, used jazz concerts at the Turkish Embassy to break down the color line in the nation's capital.
Jazz music knows no class, creed, or color. It knows no age. It speaks an international language that sings the praises of universal values such as freedom of expression. At the Consul General's residence, the guests came from many backgrounds and spoke Turkish or English as their mother tongue, but the one language they all spoke fluently was jazz music. As UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Jazz, Herbie Hancock sat down at the piano a hush fell over the living room. After his fingers touched the keys and the first chords of "Cantaloupe Island" hit the air, the guests broke into thunderous applause and cheered with delight.
"Jazz is performed to share an experience about life," Hancock said the following day at a press event. Istanbul, a city that has absorbed multiple cultural influences over the course of its history, will set the stage for one of the biggest musical events of the year; an experience that we hope will bring us just a little closer to universal understanding. UNESCO International Jazz Day will end with a sunset gala concert in Istanbul's historic Hagia Irene church. The concert will be live streamed beginning at 2:00 p.m. EDT on our consulate's website and on jazzday.com.
Related Content: Watch a video about International Jazz Day in Istanbul.