The release of Hazar’s latest album Reincarnated would serve as a glorious and transcendent, gently swaying yet rhythmically explosive introduction to a classically influenced jazz talent – if the German born acoustic guitarist wasn’t already a master on the much less known instrument known as the saz. That’s saz with a z, not sax with an x, a Turkish three stringed long-necked lute.
Inspired by Paco de Lucia, he spent years mastering that instrument as well as microtonal music and polyrhythms. His perfectly titled 2009 album Virtuoso with bassist Carles Benevant earned him praise as “The Paganini of Saz.” Then one day, after a concert in Cologne, fusion guitar legend John McLaughlin told him, “If you want to show your skills, you should play guitar.”
A brilliant showcase for Hazar’s rich string intricacies and speedy technique as well as his soul deep emotional sensibilities, the nine track set is flush with intricate, dynamic re-imaginings of classics by Chick Corea, Luis Bonfa, The Gershwins, Charlie Parker, Bireli Lagrene and others. Corea’s iconic “Spain” is rendered as a snappy yet sensuous duet with fellow guitar great Al Di Meola (who doubles on cajon), while Bonfa’s ultra-romantic “Black Orpheus” is all lush and balmy atmospheric breeze. Another highlight is “Summertime,” played thousands of times but never balancing lyrical intimacy and lively piano and percussion driven surprises so well.
The opening track, “Made For Wesley” sets the tone with an artful blend of longing lovelorn expressions and Hazar’s trademark intricate improvisations. The final two tracks on Reincarnated, the jumpy romp through Parker’s “Donna Lee” and the soft spoken, sparsely arranged traditional closer “Le Vieux Tzigane,” perfectly represent the wide range of emotions and pure virtuosity. A special shout out to McLaughlin, whose insight and inspiration was the impetus for Hazar to spread his wings and grace us with a guitar debut that grows more wondrous with each listen.
Bonus: Pure audio geeks should read the liner notes about the record company (IAN production) and their commitment to a revolutionary approach to sonic presentation. And those old schoolers who snag a physical product of Reincarnated will be equally delighted by the Blu-Ray disc that is included.