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Alper Yilmaz: Over The Clouds

Mark F. Turner By

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If Alper Yilmaz's 2007 debut Clashes (Kayique Records) was a precursor, then his sophomore release Over The Clouds solidifies the Turkish-born bassist as a force to be reckoned with. With an electric bass as his axe of choice, he delivers muscularity and ingenuity in the vein of the great Jaco Pastorius and present day players like Matthew Garrison with timing, improvisation, and elasticity that allows his band the freedom to explore.

His progressive compositions are elevated by a superlative quintet that includes the outstanding saxophonist David Binney, the impressive young guitarist Nir Felder and drummers Bodek Janke and Volkan Oktem who split duties on several tracks. Thankfully, there's no banality associated with some of today's fusion recordings; Yilmaz' music delivers equal parts robust musicianship and creativity.

Where Clashes incorporated ethnic World music, funk and pop oriented sounds, Over The Clouds digs deeper into free jazz territory, focusing in on tight group interaction. No boiler-plate or mundane riffs here, "Yet" begins inquisitively with instrument voices searching until the groove is found and fully developed. Rapid unison lines form, then Binney's searing alto spotlight is cemented by Yilmaz and Janke's incredibly deep rhythm.

"Flughafen" follows suit. This time, Okem opens with a free drum intro and Felder commands the rock-influenced track with a memorable solo that is as impressive as it is exhaustive, notes probing and incisive like a surgeon, displaying not only unique chops but also Yilmaz' unselfishness and acumen as a writer. It is this collaborative and openness that keeps the recording unencumbered.

This vibe is also heard in the weightier tracks like "Mir With Grandma" with electronic "sound design" touches. Unfolding episodically, the track contains an awe-striking solo from Yilmaz whose playing is reminiscent of Stanley Clarke's memorable "School Days." A multifaceted bassist, Yilmaz' voice is the heart of the recording, commanding but never overpowering. His exchange with Felder in "Her Waves" is filled with heated tension until things simmer down, only to reconvene with Binney and Janke starting their own sparring match.

The later half of the program also impresses. "Straight Up" is an eleven minute rocker, barreling down a craggy road of virtuosic solos. The simplicity of "Cagda's Tuner" features the bassist creating magic via loops and effects inside a touching melody. While the recording isn't your typical fusion, the band brings it hardcore with "Perplexity," with heavy prog-rock and everyone's instrument blazing. But true to form, the set closes with the heavenly title, a tone-poem that also incorporates voice work. Over The Clouds is an unusual and memorable release.

Track Listing: Yet; Flughafen; Mir With Grandma; Her Waves; Straight Up; Cagdas' Tuner; Perplexity; Over The Clouds.

Personnel: Alper Yilmaz: electric basses, sound design, loops; David Binney: alto saxophones; Nir Felder: guitars, effects; Bodek Janke: drums, percussion (1, 3, 4); Volkan Oktem: drums, percussion (2, 5, 7, 8); Aslihan Dermitas: voice (8); Tolga Tuzun: sound design (8).

Title: Over The Clouds | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Kayique Records

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