Turkish-born pianist Fahir Atakoglu has moved to the U.S. - Maryland in particular -- to continue his vision quest for musical knowledge that sees few boundaries ahead. Past recordings have seen him in symphonic and cinematic formats, with contemporary or funky rhythm mates, and the best modern musicians to challenge and elevate his already virtuosic playing. In the case of Faces & Places, all those elements are present at once, helped along by a string ensemble, some tasteful synthesizer garnishes, and the presence of heavyweights like Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, John Patitucci, and his regular drummer, the fabulous Horatio "El Negro" Hernandez. Where Atakoglu's music always has the dune sand and sun eroticism of his homeland, here it also incorporates Brazilian sounds, beats stemming from American rhythm & blues, and a soothing orchestral undercoating not at all obtrusive like some of the syrupy CTI recordings of the '70s. It's fun to hear the pianist and Brecker dig into the slashing "N.Y.-Retrospective" with all of the vigor of Seventh Avenue South skunk funk halcyon days, and in a similar mode via 7/8 time for "Seven," with Patitucci's bass and Wayne Krantz's distorted guitar setting the pace and tone respectively. Then there's the active Middle Eastern funk of "High Street," the beautiful combination of cascading Turkish mysticism and luscious samba during "Faces" in 14/8 with voices, strings, and Mintzer's sax, or how Rene Toledo's flamenco guitar is blended into the busy "Mediterranean" in a facade not so unlike that of Chick Corea's music. Atakoglu's exceptional hyper piano during "Rio Da Noite" is again situated as a juxtaposition versus Romero Lubambo's tropical guitar, while synthesizers and string convene for "...And Places," easily the most melancholy track. But hopefully romantic, the leader, Mintzer, and the string quintet evoke passionate lovemaking on "Your Face," universally at the heart of Atakoglu's themes. It is that inherently lustful quality balanced with good common sense and spectacular musicianship that identifies Faces & Places as a pure personal statement, and a continuing novel with the diversity Fahir Atakoglu has always enjoyed. It's a beautiful statement of contemporary jazz from top to bottom, deserving of high accolades, and anyone's high recommendation.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos