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Album Reviews

Tales & Stories (November, 2012)

If any of the four titles referenced here could be broadly characterized as a “straightahead-jazz outing,” it would be the wholly engaging 12-track set offered by Turkish-born guitarist and composer Sinan Bakir. That’s not to suggest that there’s anything overly conventional about the way Bakir approaches the stylistically diverse program on Tales & Stories (Aslan). His steely, twangy tone — at times reminiscent of late 1950s rockabilly artists and some blues and jazz guitarists of that era — sets him apart. Bakir’s compositions and arrangements also merit attention. As performed in a standard quartet setting (pianist Warren Byrd, upright bassist Thompson Kneeland and drummer Mark Ferber), the guitarist’s tunes sound like updated classics. The joyful, bouncy “Off the Hook,” for instance, recalls the soul-jazz spirit of a vintage take by Grant Green or George Benson. Tales & Stories is a pleasure-packed minor masterpiece.
Mark Holston - JazzIz Magazine


Graced with Bakir's distinctive style on guitar, "Tales & Stories" is also a showcase for his composing skills with its dozen richly varied new tunes. Melodically intriguing, harmonically rich and rhythmically varied, it even features odd time signatures that Dave Brubeck, the great time signature juggler, would love, including such funny looking notations with many happy results as 7/8, 5/4 and 9/8. On the encore disc, Bakir is accompanied by pianist Warren Byrd, bassist Thomson Kneeland and Mark Ferber. Both Kneeland and Ferber played on Bakir's premiere disc, "On My Way," and once again provide tight collaborative support. Byrd is a solid addition as he contributes empathetic accompaniment and significant solo contributions. The 12 varied pieces sometimes mix East and West elements and range from the diaphanous to hard-swinging pieces swaggering with digital dexterity and mental agility. All are engaging, clear, uncluttered, accessible and resonate with a pleasant sense of layered mystery, seasoned with savory hints of the exotic. Right from the opener — the title tune, "Tales & Stories" — Bakir sets the mood with his signature sound, bending notes and unfolding luminous phrases that produce an evocative aura. Maybe this Sinanesque sound he evokes comes from Turkish musical influences he heard as a child, melded with all the American music he has absorbed into his own musical persona. Whatever the explanation, Bakir's tone just by itself makes him distinctive, in addition, of course, to his fluent playing and writing. These forms of expression remove him far from the more common category of clone rangers, guitarists religiously repeating licks, chapter and verse, of whoever the current guitar hero happens to be at the moment. Quite imaginative, all the pieces seem to have narratives of their own. The music can be dreamy but never rheumy, since it's perpetually enlivened by jazz vitality and the quartet's esprit de corps, which provides a perfect stage for Bakir's wide-ranging reflections. It can be poetic or celebratory and soulful, even as euphoric as a wedding party. Here the party is actually Sinan's happy wedding of East and West. You can't make out exactly what the storylines are, but you can feel that there are tales evolving inside the music. Or as Bakir writes in his liner notes: "Music has the ability to bring the listener to a place which can only exist in our minds, free from time and space, in a way similar to traveling into a world an author has imagined. Tunes in this album have their own stories, and they are inspired by the people I encountered in my journey, from love, joy, grief, hope and dreams."
Owen McNally - Hartford Courant


I have several opportunities to hear Sinan Bakir in the 3 years since his debut CD "On My Way" was issued. He has always had impressive technique but his 2nd release "Tales and Stories" (ASLAN Records) illustrates how the Turkish-born Hartford CT resident has matured as a composer and arranger. It really helps that he has had several weekly gigs to develop these pieces. Another positive factor in the success of this project is the work of Thomson Kneeland (bass) and the splendid drummer Mark Ferber, both of whom appeared on Bakir's debut. Joining them is pianist Warren Byrd (The Afro-Semitic Experience), a musician who has the talent to play just about anything. The quartet explores the 12 original pieces with grace, fire, wit, and emotional intensity, displaying intuitive interaction throughout. Bakir continues to mine the music he heard as a young person growing up in Ankara - he blends Turkish folk melodies into pieces such as "East West" with its rubato opening that leads to a hearty guitar solo. After a short break for several rock chords, the band drops into a rocking groove (perhaps their interpretation of the "West" in the title.) Yet, there are also songs built off of chords that reflect the influence of Pat Metheny and John Abercrombie - one can hear that on driving pieces such as "Up" and the sweet title track. Other works stand out for the band's original approach like the handsome ballad "Dreams", with Kneeland's forceful bass work and Byrd's lyrical solo. When Bakir enters, the song resembles George Harrison's "Something." Bakir's solos are impressive throughout but, to these ears, he saves his best for last. "Kites (for Don)" begins as a reverie for piano and guitar, with a straight-forward single-note melody that continues to expand as the guitarist moves forward and the rhythm section enters. "Tales & Stories" is head-and-shoulders above Sinan Bakir's impressive debut CD. His melodies are stronger, his playing more varied and assured plus the addition of Byrd gives the pieces more emotional weight. Just let these sounds wash over you; good music can excite and soothe and this is good music.
Richard Kamins - Step Tempest


On My Way (2009)

Bakir has established himself as a much respected player on the highly competitive, talent-laden local scene, working in clubs, venues and festivals in the city, throughout the state and in New York City. Perhaps most momentously to date in this still forming period in his promising career, the tri-lingual, Hartford-based guitarist (he speaks Turkish, English and German) has made an indelible mark with his warm, expressive, aptly titled debut CD, "On My Way." A trio session matching him with bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Mark Ferber, the CD is a fine showcase for his lyrical, fluent playing as well as his composing skills demonstrated in 11 originals, including his homage to a favorite city in his homeland, "Blues for Istanbul." Whether composing or improvising, Bakir creates fresh sounding, accessible jazz seasoned with nuanced hints of Turkish music he heard growing up in Ankara in a home in which culture, music, art and education reigned supreme.
Owen McNally - Hartford Courant



Turkish-born guitarist/composer Sinan Bakir makes a strong debut as a leader with the self-released On My Way, an inventive guitar-trio outing with bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Mark Ferber. As the title suggests, the Hartford, Connecticut-based musician shows he is definitely on his way to becoming a creative voice in the world of jazz guitar. Bakir moves easily from a classic Kenny Burrell-style, especially on chord melody passages (title track and "Steps"), to a more modern, linear approach in the mold of John Scofield ("Stop n' Go," "Karma"). The guitarist effectively mixes bebop lines with chromatic trills, relying heavily on guitaristic hammer-ons and pull-offs, to create a unique voice void of direct imitation. The full effect of Bakir's approach can be felt on the dirge-like ballad "Evergreen." Kneeland, with his deep-in-the-wood tone, cuts through the harmonically-rich ballad "Ice Orbits" with an inventive solo turn. The bassist then displays even more technical brilliance on the Latin-tinged "Steps," paving the way for one of Bakir's more inspired improvised journeys from the session the up-tempo "Play." The disc as a whole benefits from Kneeland being featured prominently. Ferber's sensitive drumming provides the right amount of dynamic push the proceedings, elevating piece to a high level of musicality.
John Vincent Barron - Jazz Review.com


A lot of young artists seem to throw out hard and fast material at the top of their album programs, to instantly grab attention, but the rest of the music often falls flat and doesn't live up to the early-track hype. Guitarist Sinan Bakir goes the other way, easing into his music as On My Way sets sail, preferring to hold all the aces until later in the game. The title track and, to a greater extent, "Into The Blue" are musically expressive and performed well, but don't really demand attention. While Bakir, bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Mark Ferber seem to be more than comfortable in this modest musical area, the music doesn't stay there and the album really starts to take off with "Oddity." Opening as a Ferber-feature that highlights his tom work, Bakir and Kneeland give off a darker vibe when they first join in. Ferber cranks up the intensity as he develops his ideas, and eventually ends up with a more insistent feel, driven by his cymbal work. "Stop N' Go" starts off with a three-chord pattern from Bakir, while Ferber works a funk-tinged rock beat as Bakir solos, with a similarly inclined, repetitious line from Kneeland. Ferber blows off some steam with an impressive solo of his own, and the band chills out after this one, delivering the mellow ballad, "Ice Orbits." While "Steps" falls into a similar category as the opening tracks, its featherweight Latin underpinnings differentiate it. "Play!," the penultimate performance on the album, is a more overt expression ofBakir's Latin roots, and the Samba-fun(k) from Ferber and Kneeland is fantastic. Bakir's inspired soloing feeds off of the energy coming from his trio mates, with lines possessing laser-like focus. The material leading up to "Play!" is equally impressive. The spirit of guitarist John Scofield looms large over Bakir's playing, in particular on "Blues for Istanbul" and "Karma," where the entire trio seems to relish the opportunity to cut loose, the music resonating with a great sense of urgency. Kneeland's delivers his strongest solo the album, as he flies through the music with impassioned technique and energy. "Blues For Istanbul" has a cooler demeanor in its DNA, but happens to have one of the hippest feels of any tracks on the album. This trio outing certainly demonstrates that Sinan Bakir is, indeed, on his way.
Dan Bilawsky - All About Jazz

The young yet poised guitarist from Turkey named Sinan Bakir by way of Hartford, CT arrives in this summer with a solid and refreshing collection of music titled “On My Way” which also features New York studio veterans the talented bassist Thomson Kneeland and jovial drumming provided by none other than Mark Ferber. When new music arrives, I’m always excited but I’m usually hail captive in not knowing what to expect. From the opening note, guitarist Sinan Bakir’s voice clearly define his purpose as his crisp tone rings with assurance, grace and maturity on the title track “On My Way” caught me surprisingly off guard. As I listen, Sinan’s laid-back compositional style began to expand as his voice quivered with atoning excellence and undertone of another guitarist John Scofield began to register as he approached “Into the Blue.” Next up, “Oddity,” follows to employ the same rich tonality, phrases and quality as the aforementioned title while he raises the bar tempo wise to express his ongoing thirst to write and play resilient music with unrefined sensibility. “Stop N’ Go,” is an example of Bakir’s enthusiasm to further express himself as you’ll discover this mid-tempo gem is spirited and balanced by the fiery interplay by his unparalleled cohorts. Meanwhile, the swag of “Blues for Istanbul,” burns slowly as it spreads evenly on this canvas as the trio swings gently through the passages in the spirit of jazz Turkish style. On this project, guitarist/composer Sinan Bakir has without a doubt done things exactly his way. What Sinan has given us here is a blueprint of his soul, you’ll find eleven songs which embody a variety of shapes and tones influenced from the audible expressions of Turkey with of course a generous helping of jazz America style on this collection of songs I found respectfully thought out and played with understated fervor and precision that we’ve come to expect as jazz and music enthusiasts. Let’s stay tuned and see what’s next from this upcoming guitarist/composer named Sinan Bakir.
Rob Young - Urbanflux


These pieces are not just vamps waiting for long solos; instead, many of the songs have strong melodic lines that open up logically for the various solos. "Oddity" displays a Middle-Eastern feel in the rhythms and ringing guitar chords; Bakir's stinging phrases gallop atop Ferber's exciting drum work and Kneeland's rich bass tones. "Stop & Go" has a "rockish" feel, thanks to the pounding drums and thumping bass lines. Bakir digs in on this track and one can hear the influence of Allan Holdsworth, not so much for blazing fast riffs but in the textures of the guitar sound. Without a second lead instrument, Bakir alternates between single-note lines and chordal strumming. "Steps" is a good example of how he allows the melody to dictate the pace, giving room to Kneeland for a short, melodic, solo before digging in to a thoughtful guitar spot. Other highlights include the title track that opens the program. The guitarist's sound is quite clear allowing the trills and little circular riffs to stand out on a piece that is somewhat introspective. "Play!" is another "hot" track, with a rhythm line that, at times, sounds like Juan Tizol's "Caravan." Kneeland's bouncing bass phrases atop Ferber's strutting drums gives the guitarist the impetus to "let rip."
"On My Way" is a solid debut. It's easy to put this music on and just let it play. One can hear the influences of Holdsworth, John Scofield and Bill Frisell but Bakir is no imitator. The voice of the guitar one hears on the opening cut never wavers or falters throughout. The rhythm section is impressive in their support and creativity. Sinan Bakir is a good young composer and player worth your attention.
Richard Kamins - Hartford Courant


Young Sinan Bakir shows a maturity well beyond his youthful appearance. The young man favors a clean tone and assured, John Scofield-like approach. Backed by bassist Thomas Kneeland and drummer Mark Ferber, the guitarist starts off with two nicely paced mid tempo numbers before things really kick into high gear on the sinewy “Oddity” and rocking ”Stop N' Go.” Bakir calls upon some of his heritage in some moments on his solos which exhibit a bit of Middle-Eastern influence. “Ice Orbits” is cool and subtle, while “Karma” is high-stepping fun. “Blues for Istanbul” combines Turkish directions with the blues, while “Play!” has an engaging Latin touch that is delivered with jubilant energy by the trio. A nice mixture of slower- paced and faster material, played well. Bakir does indeed seem to be a young musician “on his way” and I will be interested to see where he takes his talent next.
Brad Walseth - JazzChicago.net


Music has a formula: Understanding theory, originality, natural talent, the right chemistry, discipline and focus, incorporate your own influences, understand the business side, and most importantly, music continues to grow inside you for the rest of your life. Sinan Bakir has accomplished and understands all of the above with his (self released) debut LP "On My Way" His well matched trio including the extremely talented Thomas Kneeland on acoustic bass and the magnificent drummer Mark Ferber, have presented us with something new, different and fresh. Jazz has evolved yet again with this new alternative. Lend an ear, it's not your parents/grandparents music anymore. If you haven't discovered Jazz yet, now is the opportune time to do so. Jazz has a new vehicle with Sinan Bakir at the helm and this generation can claim him as one of their own. Debut LP "On My Way" . "Stop and Go" has a delicious vibe with an example of what a perfect trio should sound like. Listen for the drum solo. "Ice Orbits"www.myspace.com/sinanbakir has a sweet lazy day feel with layers of emotional complexities yawning and spreading it's wings. "Evergreen" Is truly a lovely piece from start to finish with an epic bass solo.
Lucia Sanchez - Examiner


Sinan has introduced himself as a talented author, and his performing views accepts a modern tendencies. His themes were done in one interesting performing mood, where influences comes out from the 50's, and reachs actuelle period. His guitar technique is in many aspects unique, but offering arrangments has something "taken" from Metheny/Scofield approaches. His performing energy is also specific, and in interesting way he treats often rhythm changes in present album themes. "On My Way" is highly recomandable product, and realistically announce Sinan' s arrival on modern jazz scene.
Branimir Lokner - Music Editor and Reviewer