Wax Poetic is the dynamic collaborative effort born from the transnational creative wellspring of indefatigable composer and musician Ilhan Ersahin. It was the germ that came before Ersahin began Nublu and the foundation for much that came after. Ersahin’s projects have ranged far and wide—geographically and musically—but Wax Poetic, begun in 1997, grew out of his deep love for the soulful spirit of jazz and his desire to merge it with more pop sensibilities.
“Wax Poetic is basically my vocal project,” says Ersahin. “I’ve always been curious about nurturing up and coming talents and I needed a band to express my collaborations with vocalists. Wax Poetic is that.”
Wax Poetic released their first self-titled album in 2000. It featured Norah Jones on vocals and helped launch her now illustrious career. Over twenty other musicians also contributed their talents to the effort, marking the beginning of the globe-spanning journey this project has embraced. In 2003 Wax Poetic then released Nublu Sessions with a more concentrated group of musicians that grew out of the burgeoning Nublu scene and featured vocals from U-Roy, N’Dea Davenport, and Saul Williams, as well as Norah Jones and others. Subsequently Ersahin released Wax Poetic Copenhagen, Wax Poetic Istanbul and Wax Poetic Brasil with each recording reflecting the respective regional collaborations and sounds with world-renowned recording artists such as Otto, Bebel Gilberto, Sabina Sciubba, Karina Zeviani, Nil Karaibrahimgil, and Mamelo Sound System.
Now, working with longtime colleague and Swedish pop producer Klas Wikberg, Wax Poetic launches into new territory with their distinctive take on pure Americana. It’s a journey down the long, dark highways of America’s landscape. Multitalented singer, songwriter, and guitarist Gabriel Gordon builds seamlessly on the driving, atmospheric sounds Ersahin has created as do newcomer, vocalist Sissy Clemens with her smoldering and reflective compositions.
Ersahin explains, “Sissy is a great young vocalist who gives me a feeling I haven’t experienced since I met Norah Jones when she first came to town.”
Clemens studied vocal jazz at the New School and spent hours upon hours writing and re-writing lyrics to accompany the compositions Ilhan gave her to expand upon. It was a rewarding labor of love that resulted in a dreamlike landscape where the destination is the journey. Gordon does a similar dance, reflecting similar sensibilities, but also filters the songs through his own unique lens. He has recorded on over 30 albums himself, as well as six of his own projects. He has recorded and toured with artists such as Natalie Merchant, Andrew Roachford, and Lokua Kanza among others. He brings his own brand of soulfulness and electricity to the mix and the end product is a pop version of improvisational Americana, like a conversation where you don’t know quite what you’re going to say until you say it.
Norah Jones also makes another appearance on the current effort to round out the various vocal flavors. Guitarist Zeke Zima, bassist Jesse Murphy, and drummer Jojo Mayer also throw their creativity into the simmering stew. This incarnation of Wax Poetic is finely focused on lyrics and mood and the more traditional song structures firmly entrenched in the Americana vein. The music still has echoes of the Nublu sound, but is in fact a very distinctly American record steeped in the traditions of all that encompasses.