Turkish-born, Netherlands-educated, and soon-to-be New York-resident guitarist Timuçin Åžahin is but one example showing that a jazz mindset can be found in countries off the beaten path. Like Slovenian guitarist Samo Å alamon
, Åžahin's debut, Slick Road
(Kalan, 2004), demonstrated that a conventional jazz aesthetic and broader cultural influences need not make strange bedfellows.
The 33 year-old Åžahin seems to have surprisingly little in common with influences normally associated with up-and-coming guitarists, like Frisell, Metheny, and Scofield. Instead, Åžahin's styleall the more distinctive through his use of fretless guitars that afford him an ability to navigate unusual glissandi and microtonal harmoniesis weighted heavily towards improvisation to be sure, but from a cultural mix that has little to do with traditional jazz harmony.
Window for My Breath distils and refines Åžahin's vision. Slick Road featured an eclectic and somewhat ethnic combination of bass, two hand percussionists, and trombone. Here Åžahin pares down to a trio featuring Kai Eckhardta supple electric bassist best known for his work with John McLaughlin and the jazz jamband Garaj Mahaland Own Hart Jr., an ex-pat New Yorker who now resides in Holland, where he's the head of the jazz drum department and a professor of jazz studies at the North Netherlands Conservatorium. The lineup may be conventional, but the music most certainly is not.
Åžahin's writing continues to revolve around knotty melodies, abstruse changes, and mixed meters that have little to do with conventional swing or funk, although there are elements of both. In some respects Åžahin shares a similarly skewed view with Left Coast guitarist Nels Cline, although Cline has greater reach and a more encyclopaedic knowledge. Cline also leans to more aggressive skronk, while Åžahineven with his gritty tone and lightning fast runsis less extreme.
Still, traditional trace elements can be found. "It's Time may shift tempo and meter more often than one might think possible, but there are brief points of reference in swing. What makes its rapid rhythmic shifts remarkable is how comfortable the trio is at navigating the inherent complexities, with Sahin's solo arcing across the changes in an uncannily coherent fashion.
Window for My Breath also introduces the use of live electronics and programmed sound synthesis, broadening the trio's textural palette. "Slicky begins with sequenced tuned percussion, with more atmospheric sounds winding around the aural landscape. Ultimately settling into a trio piece, its generally rapid pace is again peppered with temporal shifts, creating a staggered effect where the musicians' interpretive abilities are put to a serious test.
While perhaps more overtly chops-laden than Slick Road, the fusion on Window for My Breath nevertheless sports a cleaner and more concise sound. Åžahin's harmonic conception is one that will likely mystify those more familiar with American fusion, but it should be of great interest to those looking to hear an alternative way of approaching the power trio. Heady stuff indeed, and evocative of a more extra-Western mindset.
Visit Timuçin Åžahin on the web.