Mark Alban Lotz

Istanbul Improv Sessions May 5th
Re:Konstruct llr 035

Mark Alban Lotz & Islak Köpek

Istanbul Improv Sessions May 4th

Evil Rabbit Records ERR 16

More below the Jazz radar than its equivalent in any city of similar size, Istanbul’s Free Music scene is still evolving. Nevertheless, as these demonstrated by these CDs, recorded on subsequent days by a Dutch-based German flautist plus local Turkish improvisers, many of the city’s players are ready for prime time.

A bandleader and composer who plays most members of the flute family and has worked with musicians as different as the Zapp String Quartet, vocalist Fay Victor and trombonist Wolter Wierbos, German Mark Alban Lotz is cast in a distinct role on either CD. Although each intermingles the flautist’s playing with subsets of local musicians, those on May 5 are a motley group who often work in different combinations. The date from the day previously however, has Lotz alongside members of Islak Köpek (IK), who have regularly played together since 2005, including a festival appearance with French percussionist Lê Quan Ninh.

Because of this, Istanbul Improv Sessions May 4th, avoid unneeded echoes of sessions which more often than not try to shoehorn together contributions from different local players and a visiting soloist into an untenable mixture. Full band tracks such as “Our”, “Mouths” and “Us” – especially then latter two – capture an organized unit comfortable with novel sonic impulses. “Us” for instance balances Lotz’s low-frequency flute vibrations against split-tone slurps and ney-like yelps from IK’s two tenor saxophonists: American Robert Reigle and Volkan Terzioğlu. As this exercise in lighter and darker reed vibrations plays out, the jousting is underscored by finger-style patterning from guitarist Şevket Akinci and American cellist Kevin Davis, plus percussive input from Korhan Erel’s laptop programming. Erel’s programming is most distinctively electronic on “Mouth” when it creates signal-processed gongs to complete the sound picture that mingles expressive reed blows plus tremolo transverse flutters.

In an analogous fashion Lotz’s experience with any of the IK members demonstrates a similar comfort level. For instance, Watery sax vibrations plus flute twitters are propelled by a spiccato cello riff on “We”; while Lotz’s balanced bass flute textures nestle comfortably within sparkling music-box-like echoes from the laptop on “Mouthstrap”. Familiar with preparations himself, Lotz’s wide vibrato creates multiphonic echoes perhaps further processed by Erel.

If only such cohesion was demonstrated the next day. Not that the musicianship is lesser among Lotz’s six collaborators here. After all some of them have played with direct stylists such as saxophonists Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker, respectively masters of bombast and chance. In any case the most dexterous improvisations involve the visitor with clarinetist Alexandre Toisoul, trumpeter Can Ömer Uygan and guitarist Umut Çağlar. “Ursuppe” finds the guitarist’s slurred fingering and irregular flanges providing an ever-shifting backing for the intermingling of trumpet grace notes, contrapuntal clarinet peeps and bass flute sonority. Herding errant timbres together with descending strums, Çağlar guides the horns’ wiggles and pants to a satisfying conclusion.

“Open Air Party” is equally organized as fuzz-tone-encrusted guitar pumps plus rubato trumpet runs create a contrapuntal response to Lotz’s legato lines. Eventually aviary-suggesting clarinet licks add to the piece’s overall lyricism. Despite juddering flute textures, non-Western-styled reed explorations and steadying rhythm work from bassist Michael Hays and drummer Florent Merlet however, most other interactions appear more tentative, no matter the remaining personnel. Instructively, “Friction”, the only other completely satisfying track, involves all the participants. Committed to express every abrasive timbre that can be pulled, pushed and whapped from an instrument, the cacophonous result of mouthpiece squeezed split tones, twittering bird calls, buzzing guitar reverb and brassy, flat-line trumpeting becomes as exciting as it is impudent.

With both these discs disseminated past the confines of Turkey, Lotz helps to show off the skills of Istanbul improvisers. Islak Köpek in toto is evidentially ready for more western exposure, as individually are some players on the other CD.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: May 5th: 1. North Star 2. Animal rites 3. R.R.K. Rahasaan 4. Ursuppe 5. Küsendem 6. Dr. No 7. Open Air Party 8. Friction 9. Sintactics 10 Soraster

Personnel: May 5th: Can Ömer Uygan (trumpet, analog effects); Mark Alban Lotz (piccolo, c, alto, bass and prepared flutes); Alexandre Toisoul (clarinet); Umut Çağlar (guitar and analog effects); Michael Hays (bass) and Florent Merlet (drums)

Track Listing: May 4th: 1. We 2. Mouths 3. Mouthstrap 4. Stop 5. Throat 6. Us 7. Scared 8. Talking 9. Down 10. Short 11. Sacred 12. Mouthstrap 13. Diamond 14. Our 15. Mouthwater

Personnel: May 4th: Mark Alban Lotz (piccolo, c, alto, bass and prepared flutes); Robert Reigle and Volkan Terzioğlu (tenor saxophones); Şevket Akinci (guitar): Kevin W. Davis (cello) and Korhan Erel (laptop and controllers)