was raised by a Swedish mother and Turkish father and moved to New York from Sweden in 1990 to pursue an education and music. An accomplished jazz session player and studio auteur, Ilhan started Wax Poetic in 1997. While Wax Poetic is now a full-fledged band – drummer Jochen Rueckert , guitarist Thor Madsen, bassist Jesse Murphy and singer Marla Turner —Ilhan says it was initially more of a project. "We were all sidemen, playing together when we had time," he recalls. "People would drop in. People would drop out. It was whoever was around.
Behind the unmarked door on Manhattan 's Lower East Side is Ilhan's club Nublu. Inside Brazilian parties and jamming freestyle jazz players meet sharply dressed bohemians and hipsters, and the clinking cocktail glasses are the color of candlelit gemstone. There's a bar and then, behind that, a small enclave of green. It's a garden, a soft, secret garden amidst the unforgiving concrete jungle. In addition, you wouldn't have an inkling from the street that any of this was going on behind this plain white door. This club, this happening, this space doesn't coerce you inside, but waits, languidly, for you to find it.
Nublu Sessions sounds so unforced, so comfortable. Ilhan's band--similarly influenced musicians and kindred sprits--has been together for a couple of years now. "The music has really come into focus for the band," says Murphy, the bass player. "We can stick to the arrangements or we can go off and embellish themes. We have that trust with each other now." Call them the house band for Ilhan's life.
And that's another reason for the comfort: Ilhan takes what life offers and weaves it into music. He visits Brazil , his girlfriend's homeland, and comes back with vibrant rhythms. He goes to Turkey , where his father was born, and finds not only Arabic influences, but also a host of like-minded musicians to play with; the Turkish singer Nil Karaibrahimgil appears on two songs. N'Dea Davenport drops by Nublu and likes what she sees, what she feels? Sure, she'll do a track. Ilhan meets spoken word artist Saul Williams one night, and Williams spends hours rhyming on the spot in Ilhan's living room. U-Roy, the legendary Jamaican dancehall emcee, was a childhood hero of Ilhan's; today, if you go to Ilhan's home, you'll find sleeve after sleeve of cherished vinyl U-Roy records. The illuminating presence of U-Roy and Williams on the album makes sense because of their presence in Ilhan's life.
The album may boast superstar contributors, but Ilhan didn't seek anyone because of their star power. All of them, one way or another, found their way to this unmarked white door.