Jazz CD Reviews
Timuçin Sahin Quartet – Bafa – Between the Lines
Published on December 12, 2009
Timuçin Sahin Quartet – Bafa – Between the Lines BTLCHR71221, 58:19 ****:
(Timuçin Sahin – 6 string electric guitar, 7 string fretless electric guitar, live electronics; John O’Gallagher – alto saxophone; Tyshawn Sorey – drums; Thomas Morgan – contrabass)
Every once in a while a jazz guitarist shows up who can swivel heads and create a buzz that generates a high degree of interest. Turkish-born Timuçin Sahin is one of those individuals. On his newest foray, Bafa, Sahin melds the compositional acumen of likeminded artists such as Dave Douglas or Vijay Iyer with the shock and awe of Sonny Sharrock or Bill Frisell. Sahin uses a double-necked guitar with fretted six-string and fretless seven-string necks, which may bring to mind John McLaughlin. But Sahin exercises an utterly distinct approach. He often attacks the guitar with a jagged tone and utilizes an unbounded style. Sahin is different from anyone else you are likely to hear. If Ornette Coleman had picked up a guitar, the result might have been something akin to this.
For Bafa, Sahin opted for a quartet to not only match his technical skills but who could also perform his complex compositions. Alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher was a member of the Joe Henderson Big Band and has undertaken projects with Chris Potter, Uri Caine and others. O’Gallagher frequently paces Sahin, somehow following his fast melodic lines and passages. Bassist Thomas Morgan is quickly establishing himself in the jazz scene. He has backed Steve Coleman, Joey Baron and more. Throughout the hour-long album Morgan exhibits his open nature and rhythmic flexibility. And what can be said about drummer Tyshawn Sorey? He is a multitalented percussionist whose solo career and membership in other groups has put him on a short list of exciting new drummers to listen to.
Sahin displays his elaborate compositional construction right from the start on the opener "Around B." The scorched piece also demonstrates the foursome’s formidable functionality. Sahin and O’Gallagher race forth with forceful melodic thrusts and auditory acrobatics that are at once challenging to hear but are organized into free-flowing forms. The splattered sounds seem chaotic at first but progressively make more sense as one listens with attentive ears. Sorey and Morgan accompany the hastened and serrated lines, underscoring the ostensibly reckless and hyperactive arrangement. When the song squeals to a frenzied finale, Sahin bores deep onto his guitar strings with near abandon.
Versatility is another key component in Sahin’s audio arsenal. While he galvanizes he also has a poignant side, amplified during "I Also Know How to Live Like Stars," which has a moderate stride and is carefully passionate. Sahin opens the piece with a resonate introduction and then O’Gallagher achieves an extended, thoughtful section accentuated by Morgan’s lithe bass and Sorey’s supple cymbal and brush work.
From there the quartet presents a four-song segment with cuts that are similar in length – each mini-saga is approximately ten minutes long – and where the four tunes also share an absorbing, multiple-woven aesthetic. Sahin’s linear guitar commences the expectant "It’s Time." Sahin and O’Gallagher loop, plunge, upsurge and roll out far-flung and off-kilter phrasings and asymmetrical but precise lines. Underneath the sax/guitar interplay Sorey and Morgan offer cubist, uncluttered grooves that counteract the exotic guitar/sax interchange. The title cut, by virtue of having a bluesy, earthier tint, is the record’s most accessible constituent. The constantly shifting escapade merges free jazz, prog rock and jazz modalities, with a slippery time signature that appears to break apart at times but concisely holds true. Sahin effectively employs distortion, amplification and ambient electronics, as well as fissured chords and rapid-fire riffs in an imposing but never gimmicky delivery. There’s a broader quotient to "New Year’s Letter." O’Gallagher and Sahin elucidate without restraint as they lay out fractured but not bombastic guitar and sax exchanges. Such liberated moments can sometimes lead to discord or distraction but Sorey and Morgan render a cohesive foundation that supplies a solid footing. Morgan and Sorey are up-front on "Elif," instituting a spacious and spacey rhythmic bottom that is a counterbalance to Sahin’s outer-space guitar sparks that at times echo Pat Metheny’s wilder instances. O’Gallagher also takes flight, although his sax explication is rootsier and marked by a boppish strut.
The group closes with "Ciccado & Guguk," a quiet, not quite somber outing that seems geared more to inner space than outward gazing. O’Gallagher and Morgan capture the lead, while Sorey provides trim backing and Sahin fills in the available gaps with obverse strums, note clusters and looped notes.
Bafa could be enigmatic for some and might prove to be difficult to get through for others. There is a lot going on in Sahin’s ample assortment of tones and experimentation and his approach to composition and performance necessitates active involvement. But to apply a one-time film student’s simile, it is like delving into a David Lynch or Atom Egoyan movie: on subsequent tries understanding and insight start to occur. The album’s fidelity is sincere to Sahin’s design scheme – if strangeness is called for, the mix is thus dense and dark – so jazz traditionalists may not appreciate the fusion-based production that is close in spirit to Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House material or Return to Forever circa 1974.
1. Around B
2. I Also Know How to Live Like Stars
3. It’s Time
5. New Years Letter
7. Ciccado & Guguk
— Doug Simpson