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Evran Ozan’s long hair and angelic face might make you think he stepped out of a '70s boy band. Or even that he’s a she. Truth is, this California teen possesses a mastery of the Native American flute that, despite his tender years, puts him in the same league as older whizzes like R. Carlos Nakai and Robert Tree Cody. Alluvia takes a familiar fusion approach that’s equal parts traditional, global, jazz and New Age; and while no new ground is broken, the music is consistently engaging and often downright brilliant. A dozen instrumental pieces, graced by varying amounts of acoustic guitar, percussion, bass and keyboards, move unpretentiously from playful to pensive with Ozan’s flute both leading and stepping back to add to the ensemble energy. Particularly sharp are the tightly wound Zimbabwean inflections of “Alpenglow” and the reggae pulse that propels “The Climb,” though every track shines.
Sometimes, an artist’s talent and vision startles me. Evren Ozan is one such artist. This thirteen year old is the epitome of the word “prodigy.” When I first listened to his latest release, Alluvia, I was so awestruck that I sincerely wondered if he was as young as he appeared to be and as was stated on his website. Call me a doubting Thomas, but no disrespect was meant on my part. It’s just that this is such a mature, self-assured, and diverse recording and Evren’s (I can’t bring myself to call him by his last name) flute playing is so good. Well, I doubt no longer! Evren Ozan is the real deal and I can only wonder at what’s going to happen if he gets better at his art!
Turning to the CD itself, on Alluvia, the wooden/Native American flutist continues to evolve his music, this time paring down some of the more frenetic cross-cultural fusion elements of his last recording, As Things Could Be (e.g. no didgeridoo) and slimming down production somewhat in favor of a leaner more contemporary jazz fusion sound, mixing uptempo workouts laced with funky beats (and occasionally introducing world beat elements or overt Native American textures) along with a few quieter introspective pieces. His adroit, passionate, and at times playful flute work still abounds (maybe even more so than on than last CD). However, the compositions here (which are all co-written with producer and accompanying musician Mac Ritchey, and occasionally others as well) are more mature, less “busy” with more room for natural improvisation (without leading to pointless noodling). While some tracks are plenty energizing, there are also shades of mystery and darkness filtered in amongst the toe-tapping rhythms and melodies (there’s even a quasi-ambient album cut, “Shavasanah,” which ends the album in spectacular fashion). Unique use of synthesizers (not just the standard string embellishments or textures) can be heard at the periphery of some songs, such as on the uptempo opening “Belle’s Quirky Independence” which features whirly-gigging retro synth sounds.
Besides Ritchey (on guitars, bass, drums, percussion and synths), other musicians on the CD include Michael Dailak and Simeon Darley-Chapin on percussion, Andrew Dow on bass, and Daniel Thompson, who provides an “ambient bed” for the closing track, “Shavasanah.” With twelve diverse songs on Alluvia, detailed descriptions of the individual tracks would not fit in my allotted review space. I’ll highlight a few, though, to give you a thumbnail picture just the same. “Taval” marries haunting lilting flute to assorted propulsive percussion, thumbing bass, and bouzouki (a guitar-like stringed instrument). “Loss” is an appropriately morose, somber duet of Evren’s Native flute and Ritchey’ plaintive bouzouki. “Chiaroscuro,” a low-key yet mellow tune on flute, acoustic guitar, djembe, and bass, aptly captures the meaning of the word (“the distribution of light and shade in a picture”). “Two If By Camel” kicks up its heels with a trippy light-hearted blend of funky fun and ethnic fusion elements. I challenge you to resist the soulful jazz riffing and rhythms of “The Climb” (I love that thumping bass and organ - shades of Herbie Mann!) or the pan-African joy of “Alpenglow.” They’re both excellent tracks!
At times evoking comparisons to no less than the seminal world fusion/new
age band Shadowfax (e.g. “An Ephemeral Dream”), Evren Ozan
and his crew light it up throughout Alluvia. This young man displays
talent and artistry far beyond his years and Ritchey et al. provide
not just ample support but come together with the flutist to form a
symbiotic whole which is much more than the sum of their individual
parts. Alluvia blew my socks off and then some. It earns my highest
recommendation and, for me, it’s absolutely in the running for
album of the year.