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Elif Çağlar: Misfit

Dan Bilawsky By

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Elif Çağlar sure knows how to put together a band. For her sophomore release, this Istanbul-based vocalist—a former pupil of Sheila Jordan—enlisted three modernist luminaries to help light the way: drummer Eric Harland brings his usual rhythmic ingenuity, energy, and play-for-the-song perspective to the production; bassist Harish Raghavan—Harland's bassist of choice for his own Voyager project—is locked in from the get-go, helping the music to pivot, shift, and groove as needed; and pianist Aaron Parks—Harland's band mate in the collective quartet known as James Farm—alternately provides lambent and radiant elements, sturdy chordal foundations, and attractive adornments. Çağlar couldn't have asked for a better trio to work with. Add to that the presence of several guests who heighten the emotion(s) in these songs—İlhan Erşahin on saxophone, İmer Demirer on trumpet, Cenk Erdoğan on guitar—and you have a first-rate lineup to contend with.

Based on that information, those who've read this far are probably wondering if this is a case of a newcomer vocalist riding the coattails of her instrumental companions. It's a fair question or thought given the particulars here, but rest assured, that's not the case. Her shape-shifting and richly-expressive voice—light and sky-bound one minute, darkly complex and soulful the next—has no problem holding its own here. She's a world away from Jordan in terms of tone quality and timbre, but Çağlar clearly learned a lot about fluid and flexible phrasing from her erstwhile teacher. And it's that confidently elastic sense of expression that helps, in part, to sell the music.

Çağlar's song topics run broad and deep, with meditations on love, celebrations of youth, yin-and-yang balance works, and coming-of-age tales all figuring into her vision. Nature and emotion merge in haunting fashion ("Before"), hyper musical happenings help to emphasize a stinging look at modern society folk with blinders on ("Get Out Get Out"), the ups and downs of life come into view ("The Books"), and the elements of surprise and beauty peak around corners. On the surface it may seem like a hodgepodge of subjects thrown into a single space, but Çağlar's ability to weave self-examination into all of these works serves as a through line. She's no misfit. She's an everywoman sharing herself through her music.

Track Listing: You Are Safe; A Misfit; Catch Us If You Can; Before; Get Out Get Out; Follow You; The Books; Grown Up; Man Down; Pieces Of Heaven.

Personnel: Elif Çağlar: vocals; Aaron Parks: piano; Harish Raghavan: acoustic bass; Eric Harland: drums; İlhan Erşahin: saxophone; İmer Demirer: trumpet (8); Cenk Erdoğan: e bow, fretless guitar (7).

Title: Misfit | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced

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