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Sinan Bakir Performs Original Music, from Blues to Ballads

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Sinan Bakir
As a teenager in Turkey, Sinan Bakir fell under the spell of the electric guitar after attending a rock concert. Little did he know that his newfound passion would lead him to the United States and a career as a jazz musician and educator.

Yet, as the guitarist's performance at West Hartford's Szechuan Tokyo on Saturday attested, Bakir has unequivocally found his calling. He confidently directed two sets of original material, ranging from blues to ballads, many given a touch of rock grittiness.

Although the event had been publicized as a trio gig, Bakir invited Dutch trumpeter Saskia Laroo and her partner, Hartford keyboardist Warren Byrd, to join his ensemble, which featured bassist Paul Brown and drummer Ben Bilello, during Saturday's two sets. The globe-trotting couple recently returned from a two-week tour in Chile, where they performed just before the devastating earthquake struck.

Bakir appears to have a strong grounding in jazz sub-genres, as well as classical and pop music. However, his own style might be best described as post-fusion, similar in concept to that of guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Both men came of age after the original jazz-rock fusion era had crested, yet their music synthesizes rock and jazz elements with more ease and fluency than did the originators of fusion during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“Stop 'n' Go," the second tune of Saturday's performance, displayed this seamless marriage of funk, rock and jazz influences, Byrd's keyboard work recalling the impassioned sounds of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea in their electric prime. Bakir's solo paid homage to John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu days while also sounding very contemporary -- and considerably more restrained in tone. The guitarist and keyboardist brought the piece to a climax when their comping during the tail end of Brown's solo grew into a fast, furious and fun-filled improvisatory dialogue.

Much later, “Oddity" explored equally fulfilling possibilities through the intersection of jazz, rock and Latin musical styles. Bilello's fine mallet work introduced this piece before Bakir took off on one of his most inspired fingerpicking excursions of the night. His clean, crisp attack revealed an impressive technique, honed no doubt during his residency at the Hartford Conservatory, where he studied on scholarship after arriving in the U.S. nine years ago.

--Chuck Obuchowski - Hartford Courant 3/7/2010

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