Sarpay Ozcagatay, known as SharpEye, is a masterful flutist with a gorgeous sound, a prodigious technique, an intelligent and controlled sense of line, sequence and harmony and the courage (or perhaps cleverness) to put together an album of medium groove tunes, with a surface sound reminiscent of ‘smooth jazz.’ But there is no confusing SharpEye’s music with that flute-friendly acoustic domain. Despite its groove, and its surface appeal to the world of easy listening flute fans, SharpEye’s has put together a musically challenging debut album in his 2013 recording, Unexpectable.
His rhythm section is appropriate to the music with competent solos by Jesse Taitt, piano and keyboards, Tyreek Jackson electric bass, Angelo Spampinato drums. But it is very much SharpEye’s album with the other players serving both to support and as contrast to the flute.
The album uses two basic structural devices. Tracks 1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 begin with lyrical, often diatonic melodies that engage the listener, then moving into the medium groove that characterizes the album as a whole. This supports SharpEye’s strategy of giving the listener something to hang on to and offers him the freedom to include the technical flourishes, flashes of chromaticism and complex sequences that move his solos far beyond the smooth jazz veneer that the grove and keyboards accentuate. The other structural device, tracks 3, 4 and 5, rely on a rhythmic figure that support more complex melodies often with electronic effects and some more adventurous flute solos.
All of the tracks use contrast, alternating keyboard, bass or drums solos with SharpEye’s solos. His playing, similarly, relies on contrasting sections and styles, both through electronic effects, and, more essentially, through the varied approaches he takes towards soloing within a track, for example, tracks 3, 5 and 7.
Although there is a great deal of harmonic interest in SharpEye’s lines and some interesting harmonies in some of the tunes, for example tracks 4 and 7, SharpEye relies on a chromatic scalar vocabulary with almost no blues inflections or bebop patterns. The lack of blues inflections is made apparent in the reprise of track 5 (track 9) which feature SharpEye’s mentor at Berklee, Ed Tomassi, on saxophone, whose blues inflected post-bebop vocabulary makes a stark contrast with SharpEye’s harmonic and melodic conception.
More interesting, perhaps, in view of SharpEye’s Turkish origins, is the absence of any middle Eastern melodies except for some possible indications of that tradition in track 8, which is among the most provocative tracks, using modal harmonies, a complex chromatic melody, electronic effects and soloing that employs SharpEye’s signature chromatic lines and thoughtful sequences.
The album holds together as a piece of music and engages the listener throughout. SharpEye’s prodigious technique never gets in the way of the music and his luscious sound offers an acoustic invitation. As a debut album it shows enormous promise and, perhaps, sensitivity to what it takes for a jazz flutist to succeed in connecting with an audience for whom the flute is most often thought of as a ‘pretty’ instrument. SharpEye has as ‘pretty’ a sound as anyone could ask for, but he is much more than that. His technical prowess and especially the intelligence with which he develops his solos, both in their large structure and in their fine details, point to an accomplished musician who may very well take jazz flute to new levels of musical and technical achievement.
1: Garip (Ozcagatay) 6:29 2: Elasticity (Jackson) 9:50; 3: New Angle (Spampinato) 5:38; 4: Quest (Ozcagatay) 7:11; 5: Tomassi’s Coffee (Ozcagatay & Taitt) 6:50; 6: Unexpectable (Ozcagatay) 9:32; 7: Belli Degil (Ozcagatay) 6:51; 8. OnB (Ozcagatay) 9:09
9: Tomassi’s Coffee (Ozcagatay & Taitt) 4:18
Sarpay Ozcagatay: flute, FX; Jesse Taitt: piano, keyboards; Tyreek Jackson: electric bass; Angelo Spampinato: drums; Ed Tomassi: tenor saxophone (9).
Review by Mark Weinstein
Mark Weinstein began his musical career as a trombonist. His playing and arranging was a major influence on Salsa trombone and brass writing in the 60s and 70s, working with great Latin jazz artists such as Eddie Palmieri, Cal Tjader and Tito Puente. He toured with Herbie Mann for years, and played in big bands of Joe Henderson, Clark Terry, Jones and Lewis, Lionel Hampton, Duke Pearson and Kenny Dorham.. Taking time out to gain a Ph.D. in Philosophy Weistein became a college professor, a role he continues to this day. But unable to stay away from music, he took up the flute and has since recorded over 20 albums in multiple jazz and world music genres under his own name.
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