Shljuka Quintet – Octave Up (ENG review)

A.MA records - Street date May 3th 2024
Shljuka Quintet - Octave Up (Italian review)

New production from our friend Antonio Martino, a man with particularly refined taste, who presents us with this jazz album from Serbia. The nickname, or rather the artistic name, Shljuka, has brought together some of the best Serbian musicians in his new quintet with whom he recorded the album “Octave Up,” composed of eight original compositions. Certainly, there are some Balkan influences, but this album could very well have come from the New York scene, given the impressive vitality and virtuosity of these artists. Here we find musicians we’re not yet accustomed to: Aleksandar Jovanovic Shljuka – Piano, Ivan Radivojevic – Trumpet, Rastko Obradovic – Alto & Soprano Saxophone, Milan Pavkovic – Double Bass, Aleksandar Cvetkovic – Drums, with their vision of jazz that truly brings a hint of novelty and a certain freshness to the compositions and interpretations.

It’s impossible to overlook the arrangements of this album which offer an incomparable acoustic space to our ears and allow us to (read/hear) the phrases of various instruments at the same time, undoubtedly what makes the uniqueness of this group, but not only because there is a poetic narration in this musical writing that is truly fascinating. Shljuka integrates the Balkan heritage in the form of melodic phrases, harmonic progressions, and rhythms, mixing them all with the language of jazz, improvisation, and contemporary sound. The compositions reflect personal impressions and a unique perspective on the emotional and musical parallels between Balkan music and different eras of jazz. They are also inspired by the atmosphere of certain literary works by Serbian writers, the local environment, and nature. The individuality and freedom of expression of each musician play a significant role in creating this album as a whole.

However, it wouldn’t be fair to limit this group to a form of Balkan jazz; indeed, the jazz form used around Balkan formulations is truly a very current jazz fusion, with bass/drums/piano progressions that are reminiscent of some recent American jazz albums, which internationalizes this album from the very first listen. As you know, the basis of influences for European jazz musicians, due to their training, comes from classical music, which allows them to interact with a real difference from American musicians, who are equally exciting, on purely technical peculiarities of arrangement writing.

Each track of this album is like a new adventure offered to the listener; I was particularly impressed by this group, loving both the pianist and trumpeter’s playing, as well as the fantastic bass/drums work that provides all the necessary energy for the other artists to shine at the peak of their art, some bass/drum solo parts are indeed indicative of the very high quality of these artists. Enough to make this album unique in its kind and to make it “Indispensable” in our eyes, for this musical proposition that is equally impressive on the jazz side as on the world music side.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, May 1st 2024

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