Monday, July 9, 2018
Oytun Ersan's Fusiolicious
I think I can sum this album up with a single genre label: big band fusion jazz. From there you can probably get a fairly clear idea of what the jazz bassist Oytun Ersan's new album is all about. Of course that's selling it short. First of all, there's the drummer. Have you ever heard of Dave Weckl? If you know Dave, your ears just pricked up. I have a good friend, a guy I've known for at least twenty years, and he's a rock drummer. He's not famous, but he's good, and he's played with a lot of famous guys--he once even auditioned for Guns 'N' Roses. He once spent a few thousand dollars on a single crash cymbal, so if he's not good he's at least serious. Anyway, I once asked him who his favorite drummer was, and he replied "Dave Weckl." From the look on my face he knew I had never heard the name, So he proceeded to lecture me on the greatness of Weckl, and how my friend had taken several courses taught by Weckl. When I asked him what was so special about the guy, he muttered something about mind-bending time signatures, but eventually he collapsed into a steaming pile of protoplasm trying to put this guy's skills into mere words.
So there's that. Oytun Ersan's new album, Fusilicious, has to be pretty amazing if Dave Weckl's on it, right? Well, for the first couple of listens I was more impressed by Ersan's funky bass lines than Weckl's stunning beats. I'm not dissing Weckl, but this is Ersan's album, so he's free to shine as brightly as he can. (After a couple more listens, I realized it was Wetzl and I started paying more attention to what he was doing.) Suffice it to say that this rhythm section is insane, just flying through these jams at the speed of sound. This is the kind of fusion jazz that never takes a breath, it just goes and goes. It's very intense, but in a fun way.
But here's another thing. I said this was big band jazz fusion, which means there's a lot more performers on stage than just Oytun and Dave. Ersan, who hails from the Turkish side of Cyprus, wanted to gather only fusion "giants" for his second album. We're talking people like sax player Eric Marienthal, keyboardists Gerry Etkins and Gary Husband, and a multitude of guitarists including Dean Brown, Mike Miller, Brett Garsed and Okan Ersan. Throw in a horn section that includes trombonist Gokay Goksen and trumpeter Utku Akyol, and you're all set. Just for a little more texture, Oytan includes a couple of vocalists (Simge Akdogu and Aytunc Akdogu), and even includes a soulful violinist named Karen Briggs. That's a lot of people on stage, playing as hard and as fast as they can. To say Fusiolicious is energetic is like saying the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a fairly dark and deep hole.
With all of this talent on board, I still tend to gravitate toward those aforementioned two in the rhythm section. Ersan is a wild and wonderful leader with his bass--you know his arrangements are focusing on those driving pulses that have settled deep into the foundation of the music. He is fast as can be. Weckl is a true soulmate, and this release could have been almost as thrilling with just the two of them. But if you haven't heard Weckl in a less academic setting, showing off the importance of percussion fundamentals, this is your chance to hear him cut loose. While there's plenty to love about Fusiolicious, Weckl is just god-like behind the kit. Treat yourself.