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Music Review: Fahir Atakoglu – Faces & Places

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Who knew that such fine jazz musicians as Fahir Atakoglu were living in Turkey? The pianist has been actively recording since 1994, when he first gained fame for his best-selling soundtrack to a popular documentary on Turkish history. While Fahir has never really broken through in the United State, he has recorded 18 albums, with combined sales of over two million.

Faces & Places is Fahir’s bid to become a familiar face Stateside, and he has enlisted some heavy hitters to help make it happen. Some of the artists who appear on Faces & Places are: Randy Brecker (trumpet), Wayne Krantz (guitar), Bob Mintzer (sax), and John Patitucci (bass).

The album opens with a fine bit of funk-fusion, “Into You.” The cut finds Yellowjackets’ saxist Bob Mintzer in full flight, and Fahir lets rip with a solid post-Bop solo turn. “High Street” follows, which turns into a nice showcase for bassist John Patitucci, as well as the Spanish-flavored guitar of Romero Lubambo.

For me, “Mediterranean” is where the record really takes off. On this track Fahir incorporates many of the disparate musical elements he has come to know over the years. I hesitate to call this world-music or anything so trite, but there are a number of distinct styles thrown into the mix. The song begins with something of an Arabian Nights motif, only to be swept along with some swinging piano and saxophone. It all culminates in a beautiful flamenco guitar solo from Rene Toledo.

“NY-Retrospective” stands-out like the proverbial sore thumb. It is Randy Brecker’s first appearance on the album, and sounds like nothing so much as late period Miles Davis. It could have slotted in nicely on the You’re Under Arrest record, actually. I mean this as complimentary as possible, but it really does sound as if Brecker is channeling the master here.

The latter part of Faces & Places is dominated by guitar. Toledo’s flamenco on “…And Places” is extraordinary. And “Seven,“ which is the most fusiony song of the set, is given over to the blazing electricity of Wayne Krantz.

The record winds up with a tasty ballad titled “Your Face.” Mintzer’s lazy sax comes in over an understated Fahir melody, and brings to mind “After The Rain,” from John Coltrane. It is a winning choice to close out the collection.

Faces & Places is a good sampler of Fahir's unique amalgam of various jazz styles. I hope he finds an audience outside of his homeland, as he certainly deserves to.

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