Turkish vocalist Yasam Hancilar sings like an engineer. That should come as no surprise as he studied engineering before beginning his education and career as a jazz singer. It might be safe to assume that Hancilar is equally left- and right-brained, an assumption supported by his recording of standards, Here's To Life. Hancilar is uniquely analytical and creative as a musician. Supported by an international piano trio, Hancilar arranges ten tried and true standards, challenging their composition, intent, time signature and tempo in an effort to transform them from the pedestrian into something special.
Pianist Christian Pabst introduces "How Deep is the Ocean" as one would expect McCoy Tyner to do. Orchestral chording dispatched with force and authority get the ball rolling on the Irving Berlin classic. Mauricio Ramirez's drumming extends the John Coltrane motif in the cymbals. When Hancilar enters, he approaches the lyrics with an earnest respect that gives way to some free, if not calculated scat singing, that piques interest with what is to come. Thad Jones' "This Child is Born" is taken at a full-ballad throttle with Pabst again recalling Tyner.
Gratefully, Hancilar is one with the guts to cover Leon Russell's "This Masquerade." Instrumentally, the song is transformed into an intricate and complex play over the chords, giving the song a propulsive momentum. This is the most fully re-imagined song on the disc, followed closely by Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments," where Hancilar and his band swing most comfortably. Hancilar largely succeeds in reframing a well-trodden repertoire. But, he is not finished and it will be interesting to see what he does next.
How Deep is the Ocean; The Best is Yet to Come; A Child is Born; E Que
Deus Ajude; This Masquerade; It Could Happen to You; Stolen Moments;
Falando De Amor; Just Friends; Here’s to Life.
Yasam Hancilar: vocals; Christian Pabst: piano; Marco Zenini: bass;
Mauricio Ramirez: drums.