Produced by multi-instrumentalist Dave Harrington - known for his work with the experimental group Darkside - the fourth installment of Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions series features the saxophonist - who also lends his talents on rhodes and synths - alongside Alp Ersönmez (bass), Izzet Kizil (percussion), Turgut Alp Bekoglu (drums) with special guests Arto Tuncboyaciyan (percussion), Nils-Petter Molvær (trumpet), Mauro Refosco (percussion), Kenny Wollesen (drums), Erik Truffaz (trumpet) and Brandon Lewis (drums). Solar Plexus takes 21st century music, envisions it from a fresh perspective, re-imagines it, and presents a new and innovative sound that is boundless and limitless.
Inspired by the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Blade Runner, the cinematic music heard on Solar Plexus collectively amounts to a movie for the mind; the listener’s ears are the screen upon which (or into which) it’s eclectic, dynamic sonic landscape is being projected. Despite its bold creativitiy and daring nature, Solar Plexus manages to retain a strong sense of accessibility and engagement. This 10 track collection takes its listeners on a trip to the sun without ever leaving Earth!
Since 2008, this group has ignited stages all across the world: from New York to Istanbul, from Paris to Sao Paolo, from London to Skopje. The master-level musicianship of their electrifying performances alongside the high eclecticism of the music provides true sense and power to the clichéd “east-to-west crossover”. Simultaneously, the Istanbul Sessions has consistently offered its listeners the “music of now”.
Frontman Ilhan Ersahin is one of those rare moguls of the New York City underground scene, known for his club and record label, Nublu. He has spread his New York energy throughout the world; it’s possible to see him jamming with The Red Hot Chili Peppers in Sao Paolo, or with Bugge Wesseltoft in Blue Note Tokyo or playing a beautiful oriental set with Turkish gypsies in an elegant concert hall somewhere in Europe. Growing up in Stockholm of a Swedish mother and Turkish father, Ersahin was steeped early on in the records his older siblings would bring home. He soaked up the sounds of the era from popular bands like Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones, and the more heady compositions of Miles Davis, various Brazilian artists of the time, and select music from his father’s homeland. In his teens Ersahin discovered the worlds of ska, funk, punk and reggae on his own and eventually picked up a sax to begin a journey that would lead him deep into the realms of jazz greats like John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Davis. Moving to New York’s East Village in the early 90s - a place that had always called him - he took a job at the famous Sweet Basil Jazz Club and immersed himself in the thriving scene of the time, playing gigs and gaining the esteem of his peers. In 1998, upon developing a new love for bands like Massive Attack and Portishead, he formed Wax Poetic. This new and innovative project incorporated spoken word, a DJ, and electronic elements, while simultaneously building upon Ersahin’s jazz instincts and included a young Norah Jones on vocals.
Ersahin’s renowned club, Nublu has become a Mecca in its own right, attracting musicians who have recorded and toured with the likes of Herbie Hancock, David Byrne, Sun Ra, Beck, John Zorn, and Tom Waits. It has spawned its own record label, and multiple projects, such as Love Trio, Nublu Orchestra (conducted by Butch Morris), I Led 3 Lives and Our Theory. The late-night impromptu jam sessions and various projects that have emerged from the small club on Avenue C have come to be known as the “Nublu Sound”, a sound very much intertwined with the goals Ersahin has been pursuing throughout his career. Projects overseas such as Ersahin’s Wonderland, Afternoon in Rio and the Nublu Jazz Festival in Sao Paolo, Istanbul, and New York only serve to cement Ersahin’s reputation as an innovator and pioneer in so many corners of the globe.
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Confusion is good sometimes. It’s a way to start thinking about whatever you are confused about. This is what Ilhan Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions have done since 2008. They have set fire to stages all across the world: from New York to Istanbul, from Paris to Sao Paolo, from London to Skopje. Their electrifying, genre-crossing performance pose questions: Is this really jazz? Doesn’t this sound like a rock band? Where does their sound come from?
Frontman Ilhan Ersahin is one of those rare moguls of the New York City underground scene via his club and record label, Nublu, and he’s spread his New York energy throughout the world. It’s possible to see him jamming with The Red Hot Chili Peppers in Sao Paolo, or featuring Bugge Wesseltoft in Blue Note Tokyo or playing a beautiful oriental set with Turkish gypsies in an elegant concert hall somewhere in Europe. How about Istanbul Sessions then? It’s master-level musicianship meeting high eclecticism where the cliché of “east-to-west crossover” finds its true sense and power. A session is a meeting of a deliberative body to conduct its business. In this case, the business is music, and the music is another heavyweight offering from Ilhan and his crew.
Above all, the Istanbul Sessions can aptly be described as cinematic. Ersahin’s saxophone sounds like it could have been recorded in the Alps or in the sweeping sand dunes and oasis’s of the Middle East. On “Falling,” Ersahin’s tone is practically three-dimensional... double tracked and bathed in a healthy dose of reverb, the saxophone and rhythm of the band evoke a story-like narrative from the mad-man trills strewn throughout the track, to the soaring, almost stadium anthem chorus. Clearly, it’s all about the (s)axe, and Ilhan Ersahin is your axeman.
History has a tendency to repeat itself, and for the third time ‘round, East meets West once again with the results more satisfying than previously thought imaginable. Through Ersahin’s playing, you can hear the ghostly echoes of those passed and a clear call to the future in his frenzy. You can also hear the siren’s call, the brooding beauty of the shrouded mystery that is the desert. Devilishly hot and bothered, the dry night air caresses your face, stirring a primal urge that excites as you step out into the glow of the Turkish metropolis.
An Istanbul session awaits.
For Solar Plexus
"Ersahin makes use of his wide-ranged influences to explore mood with a sense of comfort and delightfulness. If you have a penchant for the experimental ambient genre in its multiple variations and forms, this is a record for you." Read the full review here.
For Istanbul Underground
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"This is, as the name implies, underground music, performed with tenacity and purpose, extending to the borders of possibility, where there is no return." Full review here.
"East meets West in this delicious fusion of jazz, world, rock, prog, soundtrack (for a movie that doesn’t exist) and engaging instrumental Euro-Pop. There’s no telling where it will take you until you go there — and you find yourself wanting to return." Full review here.
"Top shelf world jazz throughout, this is one of those sets that leaves a long lasting mark that gets passed down from generation to generation without missing a step on it’s journey through time. Wildly as good as it gets." Full review here.
TRAVIS ROGERS JR
"“Istanbul Underground” is a work of unanticipated artistry and thought, elegance and fire, and entrancing dance. It is like nothing I have ever heard or imagined. It was intellectually stimulating, emotionally satisfying and, in the end, I felt enlightened by the experience. Ilhan Ersahin is the herald of a coming world of Jazz that no one could have foreseen." Full review here.
"Unscrupulous and crazy but always attached to a pronounced taste for melody that makes the extraordinarily enjoyable disc." Read the full review in Italian here.
THE JAZZ WRITER
"Is it jazz that’s meant to sound like pop or R&B? Is it something else? Those questions are presented in full force by Ilhan Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions. Their third release, Istanbul Underground doesn’t bother trying to answer the question. The group delights in asking it as they play." Full review here.