Timuçin Şahin's Flow State: Funk Poems for 'Bird'

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About

Guitarist/composer Timuçin Şahin releases Funk Poems for 'Bird', a reckoning with the ghost of one of the most important figures in the history of jazz, Charlie Parker, as well as a document of Şahin’s unique collage of influences from the classical and improvisational avant-garde. Joined by pianist Cory Smythe, bassist Reggie Washington, and drummer Sean Rickman, Şahin’s double neck guitar (one standard neck and the other fretless neck in an alternate tuning) careens through textures that are shaped by Bird's spirit while also being infused with the rhythmic energy of funk music and the chromatic pitch vocabulary of 20th century modernists.

Audio

Music is sound playing with time—but the game is chess, not checkers. I mean, seriously: have you ever thought about how strange and convoluted music’s temporal entanglements are? Somehow, all these beguiling sounds manage to flow along, simultaneously within and alongside the broader temporal flows of life, beholden to time but also shaping it, scraping it, alwaysonthevergeof escaping it. And somehow, as they flow, these sounds manage to collapse a multiverse of potential futures into a singular, smoothly unfolding present. And one way or another, this fragile musical present, itself spun out of the future like a spider’s silken thread, manages to enclose and disclose a voluminous past. How much past? Even the shortest tune contains multitudes! A single note, properly bent, can bring the blues, with all its gravity and pathos, flooding into the room. Let your band loose “on the one,” just once, and if you do it right, James Brown himself swaggers in, with a long line of predecessors trailing behind him and a huge crowd of funk progeny filling up the wings. Music houses the ghostlike vapors of lived pasts and as-yet-unlived futures. It is, in this sense, surreal, spectral—one might even say haunted.

Haunted, yes, but there are ghosts and then there are ghosts. Jazz music, like the broader African American tradition that surrounds it, is haunted by a hard history, a history of systematic dehumanization and disenfranchisement and apartheid and violence and exclusion and theft. You all know the past I’m talking about: it is the particular past of race-based actions that continues to cloud America’s present and give it its distinctive stench. Given the extreme duration and crushing intensity of this historical horror show, the riddle of jazz is that it exists at all, that a creature of such radical verve and dignity can have bubbled up out of such a fetid swamp. Its emergence, like the physical survival of its originators, was not foreordained. It was the result of a massive mountain of collective labor and faith and imagination—situated alongside hillocks of luck and happenstance and commerce and technology and literally everything else. All those early players, all those elders, all those long-dead blowers and dancers and lovers and listeners are spectral presences who flow and float and sing inside the capacious cathedral of this music.

Within that vast spectral community, the figure of alto saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker (1920-1955) is special: uniquely gifted, uniquely influential, uniquely troubled, he heard more future in the past, and pulled more of both of them into the present, than anyone else, before or since. The musical discoveries he made during his tragically short life—his complex approach to improvisation, his dynamic phrasing, his ebullient flow—have provided an extraordinarily robust lexicon and set of moves that continue to course through the jazz community today, from its conservationist rear guard to its most forward-thinking experimental edge. A century after his birth and nearly 70 years after his death, Bird remains the gentle giant, the kindest and most helpful of the ghosts who benevolently haunt jazz. As Timucin Sahin, the creator of this album, puts it: “I’m still working on his music. It never ends!”

Sahin’s album represents one more turn in that never-ending temporal spiral of influence. (This, by the way, is another way music plays, and plays with, time.) Funk Poems for Bird explores Parker’s sonorous world, but without attempting in any way to ventriloquize him or return to the bebop era he initiated. This is modern, stretched-out music that casts one tether back to the past while exploring the near edge of the musical future. In so doing, it participates in a tradition of musicians who grapple with Parker’s influence, tease out the strands of his DNA, and conjure his verve into the idiom of the now. One might even consider this the conclusion of an unintentional triptych: listen to Funk Poems on the heels of Anthony Braxton’s Charlie Parker Project and Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls, and you’ll feel the common purpose that joins these disparate albums.

Funk, taken in the most expansive and creative sense of the word, permeates these tracks. Sahin’s explosive guitar has a timbral range to rival that of James Brown’s voice; he cites Brown and Bird in one breath as his greatest influences. The tight groove of Parliament Funkadelic may be another point of reference here. More directly, the elastic approaches of Steve Coleman’s M-Base collective, where drummer Sean Rickman and bass player Reggie Washington have spent time, are palpable in this recording. M-Base exists at a point equidistant from funk and jazz, in a neighborhood close to where Sahin lives. He and pianist Cory Smythe both share a love of Afrological rhythmic dynamism but also of post-Schoenbergian art music experimentalism. You may not be able to hear the pitch sets they built off of inversions of Parker’s improvised melodies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Theoretical sophistication notwithstanding, there is nothing careful or academic or formulaic about this music when you listen to it. I imagine Sahin and Smythe and Washington and Rickman welcoming the ghost of Parker into the recording studio, and then rather than trying to barrage him with questions about his technique or suffocate him with praise, just saying “fuck it, let’s play.”

- from the liner notes, J. Martin Daughtry

Recorded January 2020 at Hayyam Studios Istanbul
Recording Engineers: Alp Turaç and Sinan Sakızlı

Baritone guitar recordings: Arel and Mimaroğlu Studios Yaşar University Izmir
Recording Engineer: Mehmet Can Özer

Confirmation on 1, is recorded at Acoustic Recording Studios in New York
Recording Engineer: Peter Karl

Mix and Mastering by Saygın Özatmaca

Cover and Recording Session Photos: Turgay Yalçın

Live Photos: Özge Balkan

Graphic Design: Negrican Birlik

Timuçin Şahin

Timuçin Şahin, called “A nimble guitarist and a scintillating composer.” (New York Times), and his music described as “Very impressive, visceral yet also cerebral and feisty..”(Downbeat Magazine), is an innovative composer, improviser and band-leader with an extensive discography and performance background. His creative practice blends jazz, avant-garde, experimental, and electronic components into a powerful musical statement on collective musical freedom.

His unique sound on 7 string fretless electric guitar and his emotional content in his composing made him non-comparable and his music almost impossible to categorize. Both his compositions and his playing on his double-neck guitar – his trademark – radiate an incomparable individualism. Guitar Player magazine wrote: “Sahin’s guitar playing soars in a confluence of high art and earthiness.”

He was awarded first prize at the prestigious Dutch Jazz Competition in 2001 and second prizes at the Jur Naessens Music Award in 2002, and Deloitte Jazz Award in 2006. His third record as a leader “BAFA” is widely regarded as one of the most unique and uncompromising jazz recordings of contemporary jazz of today.

Raul d’Gama Rose at All About Jazz wrote:

“The language of saxophone-guitar dialogues has never been the same after Coleman’s legendary Harmolodic duels with Pat Metheny. There is a chance that Timucin Sahin may have crossed that horizon after all, with Bafa”

His quintet album “Nothing Bad Can Happen” is recognized with an honorable mention for the best new release in 2017 in the “Best of the Year Issue” of prestigious NYC Jazz Record magazine.

Born in Turkey, Sahin immigrated to Holland as a young man to study jazz guitar and classical composition in Hilversum and Amsterdam Conservatories. Then he continued his studies at the Manhattan School of Music and received his PhD in composition from NYU.

Timucin Şahin has internationally performed with his own ensembles as well as artists such as Randy Brecker, Greg Osby, Robin Eubanks, Tyshawn Sorey, Cory Smythe, Thomas Morgan, Ralph Alessi, Tom Rainey, Sean Rickman, Jim Black, Kai Eckhardt, Mike Mainieri, Mark Turner, Tony Moreno, Aydin Esen, Gene Jackson, Dave Kikoski, Ernst Reizeger, John O’ Gallagher, Donny McCaslin, Reggie Washington, Loren Stillman, Ingrid Laubrock, Dan Weiss, Tom Rainey, Christopher Tordini, Mark Ferber, Matt Brewer, Concertgebouw Jazz orchestra, to name a few.

He has composed works and commissioned by Amsterdam Percussion Group, Occult Ensemble, Mivos String Quartet, Orchestra League of Composer, Timetable Percussion Ensemble,Enric Monfort Ensemble, Ere Lievonen, Verso, Amsterdam Conservatory Symphonic Orchestra, Brisk Quartet, TobeSung, Loadbang and others.

Şahin shares his concepts about his sui-generis guitar playing and composing in masterclasses and has been featured as artist in residence by universities and conservatories in the United States, Europe and Turkey. Notable engagements include: Schwartz Artist in Residence at Emory University “CompFest 2022”/ Atlanta, Composition Masterclasses at Manhattan School of Music/NYC, NYU New York (USA), Columbia University, Amsterdam Conservatory (NL), Groningen Conservatory (NL) and Gdansk Conservatory (PL).

Şahin is currently the Director of Jazz Studies in Yasar University/Turkey and has been very active in educational domains and contributes largely to the thought production in forming new ways of creative educational systems around the globe. He is the founder of “The Art of the Collective Imagination” Music Program in Turkey, which is a liberal arts program and is dedicated to bring high art to the un-privileged parts of the globe and bridges improvised music with multi disciplinary creative art forms.


Reviews

5

textura

That Reggie Washington and Sean Rickman—the bassist an early member of Steve Coleman's Five Elements and the drummer a recent one—play on guitarist Timuçin Sahin's new album automatically positions the project within a certain milieu. Yet while their complex rhythmning is key to the album's identity, two other things are more responsible for the character of the music: Sahin's distinctive guitar style and the concept behind the album. With pianist Cory Smythe completing the unit, Flow State pays tribute to Charlie “Bird” Parker and grapples with the legend's inestimable influence by translating his ideas into contemporary syntax. True to its title, the spirit of the music is more funk than bebop, even if the latter's a foundational part of its DNA.

Sahin's a bold guitarist with little regard for traditional notions of consonance and dissonance and whose playing's unconstrained by conventional harmonic thinking. His spiky attack sits comfortably alongside that of iconoclasts Derek Bailey and Sonny Sharrock, nonconformists who also had little patience with the rulebook, and were Sahin to record a duet date with Mary Halvorson or Miles Okazaki, sparks would definitely fly. Enhancing his attack, he plays on the date a double-neck baritone guitar, with one a fretted six-string and the other a fretless seven in an alternate tuning. Having both at his fingertips enables him to easily and quickly maneuver into unusual achromatic waters.

Despite the temporal gap separating these players from Parker, who breathed his last in 1955 at the criminally young age of thirty-four, the altoist's presence looms large over these performances—not literally, however, but more in terms of inspiration: Sahin's hardly the first jazz muso to have been inspired by Parker's daring, imagination, and improvisational brilliance. That said, the tone of the playing has as much to do with James Brown, George Clinton, and Steve Coleman as it does Parker.

The quartet channels him in the improvisation “Homage to Bird,” Rickman and Washington serving up a tricky groove and Sahin and Smythe punctuating it with chordal splashes and oblique runs. The guitarist slips in a McLaughlin-esque phrase before ceding the solo space to the pianist, who scampers up and down the keyboard. Sahin strafes the music like a man possessed before entropy sets in and the music retreats. A tad funkier is “Bird Watchers” for the frothy pulse the drummer and bassist roll out; for his part, the leader seems to have Parker's “Ornithology” in mind during a solo that's as slippery as an ice rink. The groove powering “Confirmation on 26-2” is so reminiscent of the kind Rickman contributes to Coleman's outfit, you almost expect to hear the saxophonist roaring in rather than Sahin. Washington solos, showing he hasn't lost a step since his own Five Elements days, and the guitarist scatters blues-tinged licks and atonal shards across the energized backdrop. Less furious is “Eleven to Fifteen Hours a Day,” its title referencing Parker's practice regimen and its loping, bottom-heavy feel a respite from the high-velocity playing elsewhere. Smythe is absent from “The Sixth Sense of the Platypus,” which leaves the leader to sprinkle acrobatic blues figures across the funk broil stoked by Washington and Rickman, after which “Confirmation on 1” largely features Sahin alone, the guitarist more than capable of holding the attention with his ever-voluble attack.

At about thirty-four minutes, the album's short by CD standards, but the quartet packs a lot of activity into its eight to-the-point tracks. “After Bird,” for example, is a mere two minutes, yet the amount of information squeezed into its lean frame almost beggars belief. As intricate, angular, flexible, and polyrhythmic as the music is, the grooves are tight and locked-in. Flow State's thus an apt band name for a unit whose players are constantly engaged in an evolving dialogue with one another. How great it would be to see a follow-up volume materialize.

— Ron Schepper, 12.02.2022

5

panm360

If the most outstanding tributes to Charlie ”Bird” Parker formed a trilogy, we would have, in order, Anthony Braxton’s Charlie Parker Project, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls and, now, Timuçin Şahin’s Funk Poems for Bird. With Cory Smythe on piano, Reggie Washington on bass and Sean Rickman on drums, Şahin forms Flow State. Flow State, the name of the band, sums up the organic, metamorphic nature of Şahin’s tribute to Parker with this album. A fluid parkour with constantly changing facets and interpenetration of influences that would not have displeased the master creator of Bebop. Scholarly and improvised music intertwine in a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

There is the atonalism of 20th-century classical modernity (Varèse is cited in the booklet, but I also think of Ives and Ligeti), Bird’s bop, of course, Steve Coleman’s M-Base adventure, and funk (Şahin names Bird and James Brown as major influences in his life), woven, triturated, inter-grafted, and distilled into something unique that appeals to the serious and committed music lover. Parker calls for this: in constant search of evolution, he fed on tradition while embracing the sometimes radical modernity of the musical multiverse of his time (he was said to be a great admirer of Edgar Varèse).

“The figure of alto saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker (1920-1955) is special: uniquely gifted, uniquely influential, uniquely troubled, he heard more future in the past, and pulled more of both into the present, than anyone else, before or since.” (J. Martin Daughtry, album’s notes)

Şahin’s often restless guitar swishes excitedly over a near-constant drum’n’bass/funky floor. Sean Rickman and Reggie Washington, two regulars on Steve Coleman’s M-Base, create an elastic rhythmic tapestry over which Smythe sprouts abstract, spontaneous piano inflorescences. A constantly quivering kaleidoscope is embodied as we are invited to be caught up in the ebb and flow of this passionate homage.

— Frédéric Cardin, 11.21.2022

5

LS MAD

Bird is Charlie Parker. And Turkish guitarist Timuçin Sahin makes him homage in this album, performed with Cory Smythe at the piano, Reggie Washington on bass and Sean Rickman on drums. But there is no question of reproducing compositions from Bird. No, Sahin is inspired by Bird's saxophone verve as to give one contemporary, resolute expression. Often the collective improvisation references avant-garde music of the 20th century, like Varese or Stravinsky (which is not coincidental: Parker wanted to study with Varese) or the M-Base of Steve Coleman, as to the funk of Parliament Funkadelic, as in even pieces of Parker: Bird Watchers for the Ornithology of the Bird, Confirmed on 26-2 and Confirmation on 1 for the Confirmation of the Bird. We often wonder where does this music go, where do the solos of Sahin lead, the interventions of Smythe and the frantic rhythm of Washington and Rickman. We do not recognize real quotes, neither those of the classics nor those of Parker. But, after all, what does it matter? The music is good, we want to go there to dive, to immerse inside, to leave carried away by the groove, the flow, the flow, without thinking. The musicians are without doubt saying: Fuck, let's play! So let's go too: Fuck, let's listen!

— J-C-V, 12.01.2022

5

Hürriyet

The CD booklet includes an article by Martin Doughtry about the album:

“Sahin's album represents yet another turning point in the never-ending spiral of temporal influence.

Funk Poems for Bird explores Parker's sonic world without any gut-wrenching or attempting to return to the bepop era that Bird fictionalized.

This modern and flexible music explores the near edge of the musical future while dreaming of the past. While doing this, he pondered Parker's music.

Maybe we can see this album as the last piece of a three-piece painting that was made without being aware of each other.

(translated from Turkish via Google Translate)

— Doğan Hızlan, 10.30.2022

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