Marcus Is Back

Marcus Miller Has Been To Istanbul Many Times. But This Time He’s Here Wıth A Very Special Project At Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Open Air Theater On July 5.

Appearing as part of the 19th Istanbul Jazz Festival, the famous bassist performing with a special band called The Istanbul Project, put together for the 40th anniversary of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). Joining Miller’s team for the project are Burhan Öcal, Okay Temiz, İmer Demirer, Bilal Karaman and Hüsnü Şenlendirici. We talked with Miller when he stopped by Istanbul at the end of May to meet his teammates ahead of the project.

You’ve been in Istanbul many times. Do you have any favorite places here?
My favorite restaurant is at the airport. The guys that serve there know me. I also have a rug man down in Eminönü who is my ‘Turkish carpet guy’. He’s always trying to sell me something, but most of the time I just go there and he makes apple tea and we sit and talk about everything under the sun. Sometimes I buy a rug, sometimes I don’t. We always end up on the music Street at Tünel, too. Mostly I go to the clarinet shops because the clarinet has such a strong history here.

Can you give us a clue as to what surprises are in store for the Turkish audience?
The whole thing’s going to be a surprise. It’s going to be a surprise for us, too. That’s what’s cool about doing something like this. We’re going to exchange some ideas over the next month. We’re going to rehearse for three days and try to find some common ground. I know it’s there. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it is, but you always find it in the end. I’m very excited. We’re going to use some of their music and some of mine. Maybe I’ll write something new and try to create a true mix out of this cultural collaboration.

Speaking of common ground, you started out in music playing the clarinet, and now Hüsnü Şenlendirici is in the project. Are you going to play solos together on stage?
You’re going to give it all away! But, yes, absolutely. I really admire him. He has all the history in his sound. I’ve already talked with him, and the first thing he said to me was, “We’re going to play together, right?” and I said, “Yes, absolutely!”

Did you known any of the musicians before The Istanbul Project was put together?
I’ve been listening to their music, but this is the first time I’ve actually met everybody. But it’s not that crazy.
My first time in Istanbul in the 90’s I went to a place on İstiklal Street after my concert and we jammed all night. I didn’t know anybody’s name. Roy Hargrove was here with me. We were up all night. We went straight from there to the airport. So it’s kind of what we do. The only difference now is that it’s official and we’re not doing it late at night. We’re starting around 7:30 or 8. But it’s the same spirit.

Is this just going to be a one-time show, or are you going to tour with this project and cut a record?
There’s been some talk about going to other places after this. Of course, if that happens we’ll definitely record it. It might be nice to do a live recording so people can see it. For me, it’s as interesting visually as it is aurally, because you sit there and say to yourself, “Wow! These guys come from different parts of the world.”

Another interesting guest of the 19th Istanbul Jazz Festival, July 3 to 19, is Esperanza Spalding, who has won acclaim for both her extraordinary voice and her mastery of the bass guitar. Spalding, who will perform at Cemil Topuzlu Open Air Theater on July 16, won a Grammy Award in 2011 for Best New Artist. In addition to jazz legends like Erykah Badu, Erik Truffaz, Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, different bands like Morrissey and The Dears are also among the guests of the 19th Istanbul Jazz Festival.