Review by James Seaberry (Jazz Guitar Society)

Burak Kaya, Climate Change (2005) reviewed by James Seaberry
Published: May 13, 2015 (Jazz Guitar Society – Reviews )

I was given the honor and pleasure of reviewing a new CD by an amazing guitarist and composer from Istanbul, Turkey, Burak Kaya. The CD is entitled “Climate Change”. I did not know of him or his work, nor did I have any preconceived notions of what his music was like. Listening to it and making notes on his music turned out to be an unexpected pleasure.

Track 1 is “Activists”. It begins with solo guitar with soft percussion. He plays a nylon-stringed guitar, and this song has a highly syncopated rhythmic motif. His chordal playing of the motif is not reflective of any stereotypical “ethnic” style. It is simply a very personal feeling, bouncing, driving rhythm which catches your ear immediately. The texture is impressive; the drums add more cymbals, then Kaya intersperses single lines at times, developing the motif without straying. The bass enters, the guitar comps, and the percussion moves to soft shakers. A well-crafted and well played composition, with the attention given to texture most impressive.

Track 2 is “Gezi Park”, a jagged, staccato motif between guitar and bass. The percussion enters, adding to the funky, jagged feel. Halfway through the development, there is a change of feel to a sultry swing feel. It is reminiscent of an Ellington/Strayhorn theme, lilting block chords leading the way. A fine bass solo with a slight “Gypsy” feel follows with a lot of percussive effects in the solo. Excellent track.

Track 3 is “Hasankeyf”. This starts as a solo guitar block chord balls, a beautiful melody which switches between major and minor tonality. It then breaks into a light swing feel with the bass; lots of nice single lines against the bass, followed by 4-to-the-bar comping behind the bass solo. The bass then drops out, returning the feel to the solo guitar ballad. A beautifully crafted composition, with great attention paid to the interplay of the instrumentation.

Track 4 is “Emek Movie Theatre”. This starts as a trio, a soft, slow, swaying melody, like winds blowing across an oasis, for lack of a better description. The chordal statement of the melody pulses in unison with bass and percussion. There is some very nice chordal soloing on guitar. This song is driven by pulsing drum rhythms throughout. It is less adventurous harmonically than the previous ones, but the swaying rhythms carry the whole song magnificently.

Track 5 is “HES Off”. This is another rhythm-driven track with the trio in full force. It is similar to track 4 in the pulsing swaying rhythm, but this song is much richer harmonically. There are more single-note lines in Kaya’s solo, and his improvisations stay admirably close to the theme, developing it beautifully. Beautiful song, beautifully played.

Track 6 is “Tree Cutter Bridge”; again, this track is driven by strong pulsing rhythms, but it is quite different from the previous ones. This one was reminiscent of some of John Stowell’s dissonant, close-voicing, arpeggiated lines, but with very highly syncopated feel from the trio. You CANNOT sit still when this one is playing; your foot will be tapping or you will be swaying along. It is that catching. The bass sound on this track is especially striking, with a very deep, clear tone. There is tremendous interplay between the bass and guitar which highlights the highly developed musicianship which fills this entire CD.

Track 7 is “Istanbul Cycleways”. This is just a short snippet of a musical idea, just a few seconds long, reminiscent of biking in Istanbul. Quite novel ides, to suggest the musical motif, then abruptly leave it open for the imagination to finish, perhaps as an indication that the bike paths need to be lengthened???? Very clever!!!

Track 8 is “Climate Change”, an apparent nod to the need to correct our haphazard use of Mother Nature’s bounties. Upon listening, it is quickly apparent that this is the intention of the track. The chordal statement of the melody with its swaying rhythms, alludes to the harmony in life when the condition of the Earth is respected. The bass and drums enter, adding to the texture, and the feeling that the 3 instruments are in harmony, as we would be if we cared for the planet as we should. Then the solos, a single-line solo from the guitar followed by a great bass solo with harmonics and terrific percussive effects, seems to point towards a dissonant, fractured feeling, evoking the misuse of the world’s resources. The following percussion solo continues to develop this theme. Suitably, there is no “ending” stated, as our needs to control consumption is still a work in progress. A well crafted composition which fits the subject matter magnificently.

Track 9 is “Gerze”. It begins with a very open solo guitar statement with very wide, quintal-sounding arpeggiation over an intermittent drone bass note; there is an abrupt change of pace and rhythm as the bass and drums enter. The song builds in a very “folk song” feel around a different, syncopated arpeggiated melody. It builds and builds until there is another abrupt change of rhythm and melody, played in block-chord style by the guitar. This song keeps you off balance throughout, never giving you the expected, the ordinary; this track, and the whole CD are like nothing familiar to “Western” ears, but the entirety of this CD was a breath of fresh air, some music going in unexpected ways and unusual places, generally driven by bouncing, catchy rhythms but always filled with musicianship of the highest order.

The three musicians, Burak Kaya on guitar, Ozan Musluoglu on bass and Yinon Muallem on percussion have a sympathy with each other that makes every track on this CD an enjoyable adventure. HIGHLY recommended.

James Seaberry for JGS, 13 May 2015,
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