DoubleMoon DM0030
label website

The Greek and Turkish clarinet, though identical as an instrument to its brethren in the classical, Jazz and Klezmer milieus, is nonetheless played very differently. Relatedly, it even appears in Bulgarian wedding music. There grandmasters Ivo Papasov, Philip Simeonov and Mladen Malakov stir up a witch's brew of impossibly high-speed acrobatics that would make bona fide Jazz cats like Eddie Daniels green with envy. In Greece, clarinetist Vassilis Saleas has garnered fame as an in-demand soloist, accompanist for his singer brother Sarantis and as collaborator with Theodorakis, Vangelis and the Arles-based French Chico & The Gypsies formation. In Turkey, there's Bülent Altinbaş who often appears as session musician with Sezen Aksu. There's Serkan Çalgi, Barbaros Erköse (arguably most famous in the West for his elegiac collaboration with oudist Anouar Brahem) and Ferdi Nadaz who appeared with Burhan Öçal on Istanbul Oriental Ensemble. And now, there's also he who brings joy: Hüsnü Şenlendirici. That's in fact what his Gypsy name means. Based on his newest solo album, he takes his name very serious, too. In short, he delivers with a vengeance.

Hüsn-Ü Klarnet is an album dedicated to the modern art of the Turkish solo clarinet played Gypsy-style in serpentine, heavily ornamented runs and vibrato-rich evocative melodies presented in settings that range from Arabesque, Tsifeteli belly dance music and Detroit Kef Time to the Armenian Eighth Avenue club scene of NYC's 1950s, Macedonian Gypsy brass and Greek Buzuki bands. From souped-up traditional Turkish divan settings -- baglama, oud, tanbur, quanoun -- to electrical guitar and bass, accordion and piano, Hüsn-Ü Klarnet is a heady mix that shows off its solo instrument in settings rarely heard outside Old Instanbul. With tunes provided by the artist, Sezen Aksu, Zülfü Livaneli, Kemani Serkis Efendi, Neşet Ertaş and others, there are dreamy ballads like the stunning "Kimseye Etmen Sikayet" and "Tatli Dillim" that take advantage of the warm lower registers and uptempo romps like "Kumsalda" that change tonality into more nasal Zurna territory. Throughout it all, Hüsnü shows true bravura handling of his blackwood.

Unlike Saleas' exploits with similar ambitions then -- say on his Live in Constantinople double album that relies heavily on electronica and poorly executed settings [Mapkogianni Ltd. 19890] -- Hüsn-Ü Klarnet operates artistically on a much higher level. Ditto for the recording quality, the sophistication of the dense arrangements and the sheer instrumental chops of the soloist. Finding albums dedicated to the Middle-Eastern clarinet when you live in the US is nearly impossible. Finding a standout thus far has proven impossible, period. Now the excellent Turkish label DoubleMoon with its English pages and on-line order desk provides a solution - the album to own in this genre. The clarinet player and Turkish music lover in me is ecstatic. Truth be told, I'm not a little envious, too. Hail Hüsnü, the new monster champion. Here's to many happy returns for future outings and hoping that his seductive approach will help the Turkish clarinet garner the global recognition it so clearly deserves.