PREVIEW: Karsu Plays Atlantic Records: The Story of Ahmet Ertegün (30 May, Cadogan Hall)



Already established as an accomplished songwriter, vocalist and musician of considerable merit, KARSU’s latest show finds her skipping through the vaults of Atlantic Records and paying homage to Ahmet Ertegün, the founder of the label, writes Sam Shepherd.

Karsu’s musical career began at seven when her parents bought her a piano. From there, she progressed from playing in the family restaurant in Amsterdam, before finally making it all the way to Carnegie Hall – proving once again that practice really is the way to get there.

Her solo work often blends a variety of styles and adds a unique twist of her own to create reflective and occasionally pop-toned tunes, although the roots of her approach stem from her jazz background. Her most recent album, COLORS, is a perfect example of her ability to take a variety of genres and blend them effortlessly. It is also an album that seeks to explore Karsu’s heritage by adding a Turkish flavour into the mix.

Ahmet Ertegün
Photo source: William P. Gottlieb Collection (Library of Congress)/ Public Domain

The story of Ahmet Ertegün and his involvement in Atlantic Records provides the perfect narrative for Karsu’s current venture. The pair share a Turkish heritage, but also a love of music in all its forms, which gives this project a personal resonance, alongside an almost never ending supply of music for Karsu to choose from.

Ertegün set up Atlantic Records in 1947 with Herb Abramson (thanks to some financial help from family dentist Dr. Vahdi Sabit) as a label to give a voice to gospel, jazz and R&B. Over the years, the label changed its outlook as the musical world changed too. With a musical legacy that spans genres and generations, Atlantic has been at the forefront of the music industry, pushing boundaries, establishing groundbreaking acts and providing a home for some of the greatest artists in the musical world. Over the years they’ve championed blues, rock 'n' roll, disco, jazz, metal, and hip hop, and everything in between. With artists such as Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, The Bee Gees, Led Zeppelin, ABBA, Eric Clapton and Cher on their roster, the Atlantic pedigree is astonishing.



Tackling a story and legacy as significant and impressive as that of Atlantic Records would give most artists pause for thought. Yet Karsu seems entirely undaunted by the task of showcasing some of the label’s biggest hits. Listening to Karsu’s take on The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black it is clear that she is an artist that not only understands the heart and soul of the original but also has a clear vision of how to re-interpret a song and add her personality into the mix. Recast as a laid back reggae-jazz fusion, it still simmers with a considerable intensity. There’s no doubting that there’s also something of a nod to Amy Winehouse too. Not only does Karsu Paint It Black but she takes it Back To Black too.

Karsu Plays Atlantic Records: The Story of Ahmet Ertegün has already been a big hit across Europe and the show at Cadogan Hall promises to be something truly special as well as a fine way to swing into summer.

A prolific live performer, Karsu’s talents have seen her perform in over 20 countries, including three times at the world famous Carnegie Hall in New York. The Dutch have already seen and loved Karsu Plays Atlantic Records, which she is currently touring across Europe. Brabants Dagblad called the concert a “versatile and swirling performance” and Theater Paradise online magazine wrote “the music is great”.(pp)

Karsu's London concert is promoter by Piu Entertainment and supported by the Yunus Emre Institute.

LINKS: Karsu's website 
Cadogan Hall Bookings for 30 May 

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