Ilhan Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions

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Ilhan Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions

Ilhan Ersahin photo courtesy of the artist.

Sunday, June 30, 7pm & 9:30pm
The Royal Room
5000 Rainier Ave S


Swedish-Turkish saxophonist Ilhan Ersahin brings the electrifying rhythms of his Istanbul Sessions to the Royal Room.


Ersahin grew up in an eclectic musical environment, listening to everything from classic jazz to reggae to punk. After briefly attending Berklee College, he moved to New York’s East Village in the early ‘90s. Having immersed himself in the underground jazz scene, he eventually formed his project Wax Poetic in 1998, collaborating with artists like Norah Jones and befriending Turkish record producer Ahmet Ertegun.

In 2002, he and his wife opened their own club, Nublu, where musicians from different cultures found common ground to collaborate, eventually spawning a record label under the same name. Ersahin’s connections in Turkey were what became the impetus for the “Istanbul Sessions,” beginning as early as 1994, when he played at the Akbank Jazz Festival.

In 2008, Ersahin gathered with breakout Turkish instrumentalists, including current band members Alp Ersönmez (bass), Izzet Kizil (percussion), and Turgut Alp Bekoglu (drums). Leaders in the local scene, Ersönmez has toured and recorded with Turkey’s major pop star, Tarkan; Bekoglu has played with famous Turkish singers including Sezen Aksu, and Ajda Pekkan; Kizil, a studio musician, has recorded with countless others.

Playing groove-oriented music steeped in the rhythmic traditions of the Mediterranean but influenced by the global lingua franca of rock and roll, Ersahin’s Istanbul musicians tie novel modes of playing with the improvisatory formulas of contemporary jazz.

Istanbul Sessions produced its debut recording in 2009, praised in All About Jazz for its “cinematic imagery,” a collection of danceable, eclectic “underground music, performed with tenacity and purpose, extending to the borders of possibility, where there is no return.”

Their newest release Solar Plexus looks to the future, inspired by the imagined worlds of science fiction. Solar Plexus features Truffaz, Kenny Wolleson, Arto Tunçboyaciyan, and other collaborators reflecting Ersahin’s peripatetic musical life.

“Between jazz improvisation, electro and traditional instruments, the 11 titles of “Istanbul sessions” are a real link between Turkey, the Middle East and the West,” writes FranceMusique.fr. For those wondering what happens when worlds collide, look no further than Ersahin’s present-day musical future.

–Ian Gwin

Advance Tickets $20 adults, $18 Earshot members & seniors, $10 students &
military; Day of Show $25 adults, $23 Earshot members & seniors, $10 students& military