With the world becoming a smaller place, jazz is finding its way into unexpected places. Slovenia has a burgeoning jazz scene with artists like Samo Salamon and Jure Pukl; from India artists include the genre-bending Prasanna and the improvisationally rich U. Srinivas; and now, from Turkey comes Timucin Sahin with Slick Road , an album that shows how far away from the American tradition jazz has drifted, all the while remaining vibrant and true to its essence.
Sahin's influences are as rich as his own heritage, which involves being raised in Turkey and then moving to Amsterdam at the age of nineteen to study at the Hilversum and Amsterdam Conservatories; in addition he spent time studying classical composition at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. With a voracious musical appetite that includes African, Indian and more traditional western jazz and contemporary classical music, Sahin has fashioned a sound that is an intriguing blend. With the exception of "Sanki Funky," which features Indian vocalization by percussionist B.C. Manjunath, the roots of Sahin's style are completely hidden in a sound that, while a challenge to grab onto at times, is worth the effort.
It is intriguing to find trombonist Robin Eubanks as a guest on the recording, as there are elements of Eubanks' brother, guitarist Kevin, in Sahin's playingespecially in the rapid fire lines of the title track. Elsewhere the influences on Sahin are less obvious; nowhere to be found are the usual cast of characters like Abercrombie, Hall, Frisell, Metheny and Scofield. Sahin's approach seems to be more about the absorption of ethnic influences. Rhythm also plays a large part in his work, sometimes establishing dark grooves, other times moving with time shifts that, in the hands of those less capable, would sound clumsy but here are completely seamless.
Another of Sahin's defining characteristics is his use, along with the more traditional fretted electric guitar, of a fretless electric guitar that allows him to bend notes and play microtonally, tying him further into the South Indian, Eastern European and Asian traditions. There are few guitarists today who work with fretless instruments, and intonation is almost always an issue, but Sahin is confident and capable on the instrument, and with it brings a whole other texture to the polyrhythmic "Rare Falcon."
All that being said, at the core of Sahin's music is a devotion to collective improvisation, and his band, the Rare Falcons, work extremely well together. Bassist Hein van de Geyn and percussionists Afra Mussawaisade and B.C. Manjunath create a multi-layered texture that is sometimes a backdrop, and other times the dominant force of a composition.
Sahin writes abstruse melodies and oblique passages that harmonically challenge the ear of a listener more used to traditional western concepts. But for those with an interest in expanding their musical boundaries and hearing how other traditions can expand the musical palette of improvisation, Timucin Sahin's Slick Road is well worth the listen.
Personnel: Timucin Sahin (electric and fretless guitars), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Hein van de Geyn (contrabasse), Afra Mussawaisade (percussion set-up), B.C. Manjunath (Indian percussion and oral pneumonic)