Ilhan Ersahin
Photo: Reha Öztunalı / Courtesy of Clandestine Label Services

Saxophonist Ilhan Ersahin Is Forging a New Sound on ‘Invite Your Eye’

For Invite Your Eye jazz saxophonist Ilhan Ersahin finds two sympathetic musicians in Dave Harrington and Kenny Wollesen to jam new music into existence

Invite Your Eye
Ilhan Ersahin, Dave Harrington, Kenny Wollesen
Nublu Records
4 March 2022

Saxophonist Ilhan Ersahin is in the process of forging a new sound. His jams with guitarist Dave Harrington and percussionist Kenny Wollesen have produced some highly unique results, conveniently packaged on his Nublu Records release Invite Your Eye. To be fair, this trio’s blend of ambient jazz and experimental incidental music isn’t entirely without precedent. One can hear faint echoes of Bill Frisell, Tortoise, and Rudresh Mahanthappa.

But Ersahin’s trio have found a creative way to synthesize all of these elements, and likely many more, into a single sound that is never busy, never cluttered. The more one thinks about or discusses the sonic building blocks of Invite Your Eye, the less useful your typical genre labels become. Jazz? Sure, I’ll grant you jazz as there’s a saxophone with a guitar and percussionist. But the music is just as much not-jazz as it is jazz if that at all gives an accurate lay of the land.

One factor that likely helps with the open-ended nature of the music is that all three musicians are multi-taskers. Fans of John Zorn’s many ongoing projects already know that Wollesen is skilled at mallet work, so in addition to providing a beat for Invite Your Eye, he also gives it a vibraphonic touch. Ersahin plays a variety of keyed instruments in addition to the saxophone, including a Juno 106 synthesizer. Harrington has the longest list of credits with electronics, bass, organ, congas, the sampler, and more modular synthesizers along with the guitar. Between the three of them, it would be tempting to sculpt a sound too dense for the average listener to penetrate. Fortunately, they do not do that. Invite Your Eye is about as minimal as you can get when 16 different instruments are involved. 

“And It Happens Everyday” is pretty soft and subtle as album openers go, though the relaxed atmosphere does hide a lot of linear movement between the guitar and bass. Ersahin proves to be technically up there with the best of his as his staccato double-note ascensions sound so effortless. That easy feeling is channeled into the laid-back funk of the next song, the near-nine-minute jam “Dusty Village”. Don’t let the name fool you; it’s not exactly what you would call earth-bound. This funk gets a gloomy makeover on the title track, a quietly-burning night train headed for the wall. The tense groove that pushes “Wall All the Books Say”, which gives way to the electro-blues of “Wreck the Study”, offers a reprieve. 

Invite Your Eye’s second half is bookended by two tracks named “The Long Goodbye”, serving up the album’s six of its most melancholy minutes. In these desolate moments, Jim Hall meets Harold Budd, imbuing jazz harmony with the atmospherics of minimalist electronics – or it could be the other way around. Either way, the album’s diverse first half fused with the straightforwardness of its second half creates quite the favorable picture of Ersahin, Harrington, and Wollesen as a creative force. Their ability to conjure new sounds is matched by their musical telepathy. Whatever name we may pin to it, Invite Your Eye is very much worth the time and mental energy.

RATING 7 / 10