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Fahir Atakoglu: If

The back cover of the CD booklet misquotes the single most famous statement ever made about jazz (Louis Armstrong’s “If you have to ask….”). The dubious production values then continue with mediocre sonic quality and wild superlatives and inanities and typos in the liner notes. As with so many of today’s self-produced private-label recordings, it is necessary to fight through these obstacles to reach the music.

The music of If is undeniably skillful and valid and unique, even for listeners not immediately attracted to Fahir Atakoglu’s busy, intricate, highly percussive, rhythm-dominated piano-trio style. Atakoglu is originally from Istanbul, and the amalgamation of his Turkish melodic and metrical motifs, Horacio Hernández hot Latin drumming and Anthony Jackson’s electric-bass funk is a new sound. The 12 tunes (all Atakoglu originals) are striking in the way that their complex meters (14/8, 10/8) connect and flow naturally into the rhythmic intensities of Hernandez and Jackson.

The paradox about such music is that, over an entire album, the high-energy pieces start to lose their kick, like a drug wearing off. They also start to sound similar. The gentler tunes that are about melodic content (“Back Home,” “Cool”) are not strong enough to provide alternative sources of excitement.

Originally Published