May 29, 2024

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CD review: Hazar and Al Di Meola – Reincarnated 2020: Video, CD cover

I’ll be honest. I was curious about this disc because it includes a special guest appearance by the great jazz guitarist Al Di Meola, one of my many guitar heroes.

Who’s he performing with? Wow. I doubt many people in North America know the name of Ulas Hazar, professionally known as Hazar. I didn’t. But listen to this disc and you’ll likely agree that Hazar – like Di Meola – is a virtuoso of the highest order and worthy of worldwide recognition.

Hazar’s rapid-fire finger movement along his acoustic guitar fretboard is sheer brilliance – not because of power or volume, but because of his creativity and his ear for improvisation.

On this all-instrumental disc, Hazar breezes through nine songs with bossa nova, Gypsy swing, bebop, jazz, and flamenco influences, including covers of the Chick Corea classic, “Spain,” which he performs with Di Meola joining him on acoustic guitar and also playing cajon.

He also performs the George Gershwin classic, “Summertime,” like it’s probably never been done before, and Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee.”

Why Reincarnated as the album title? That’s the biggest surprise. Hazar, who grew up in Germany, spent years performing the saz, a three-stringed, long-necked lute and wowed critics with his 2009 album, Virtuoso, with that instrument. He moved over to acoustic guitar and has been “reincarnated” as a rare musician seen as a virtuoso on two instruments.

This release is sold in a deluxe set that includes a traditional CD and Blu-ray audio, with three bonus videos.

And here’s a fun anecdote for us Beatles fans: This release was mastered at Abbey Road Studios in London. The sound quality’s incredibly sharp.

The bass clarinet makes it for me. Hazar deserves mad praise first for his virtuosity on the saz (a lute-like Persian instrument), then for switching over to acoustic guitar and tearing it up down a different highway. But that bass clarinet—played by Piotr Torunski on several cuts here, showcasing its lower-range woodsy burble—dovetails so tastily with Hazar’s always-fancy flights.

The album’s much-touted binaural stereo, at least on the CD, isn’t nearly so freaky as my previous bouts with such things, although sounds, burbly and otherwise, can occasionally wrap around the inside of my head. Al Di Meola’s heavily hyped guest spot turns out to be a pleasantly modest surprise; the guest doubles on cajón for certain passages, but he and Hazar also take turns fluttering downward to the already-fluttering notes of Chick Corea’s “Spain.”

“Donna Lee” manifests the steeplechase Charlie Parker had in mind, but with an offhanded piano part by Mike Roelofs and distant percussion by Mehmet Akatay, suggesting an after-hours jam over smoky bourbon. “Summertime” finds all four players—Hazar, Roelofs, Akatay, and Torunski—flying apart from each other to the four corners of the mix, tossing each other musical compliments and a few jokes. Listen to this one on headphones for the full effect. You’ll need it for the mix. But you’ll stay for the human intricacy.

1 Hazar – Made For Wesley (2:56)
2 Hazar/Al Di Meola – Spain (4:07)
3 Hazar – Bossa Dorado (5:04)
4 Hazar – Black Orpheus (8:02)
5 Hazar – Made In France (2:55)
6 Hazar – Summertime (6:13)
7 Hazar – For Sephora (3:25)
8 Hazar – Donna Lee (2:51)
9 Hazar – Le Vieux Tzigane (4:49)

Hazar – acoustic guitar
Al Di Meola – guitar, cajon (Spain)
Piotr Torunski – bass clarinet
Mike Roelofs – piano
Mehmet Katay – percussion

HAZAR - Reincarnated Preview (ALBUM OUT NOW) - YouTube

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