Georgi Sareski 6 Featuring Francesco Bearzatti: SoHoHo
If guitarist Georgi Sareski's debut album, Elflandia, in which he explored spacious tonal landscapes, presented him as a gifted composer with a fertile imagination, then his second album, SoHoHo, showcases both his compositional skills and his prowess on the guitar, his first instrument, which was a little sidelined on Elflandia.
In complete contrast to the contemplative mood that prevails on the first album, Sareski shows a wide range of musical awareness, leadership and generosity that help put this new album into the "something special" category. For this occasion he assembled a stellar group of supporting musicians to present a collection of jazz/fusion compositions. When you have a super-band of this quality, their class pops out enough to blow away the competition on most other jazz releases. It's an estimable ensemble and even though only some of the band members had played together previously, SoHoHo is unquestionably a work of a close-knit unit that is determined to put individual flair at the service of a collective sound.
Technically, this is a live album. It was culled from a performance at the Macedonian Opera and Ballet in February 2006, with a few studio tracks added. The compositions are structured to provide plenty of room for extended improvisation and impassioned solos, giving each composition the extra glisten of creative talent.
The opening track, "Zlust," is an open reference to Dzijan Emin's band, Project Zlust. The haunting little opening melody soon evolves into a powerful swing led by a bluesy tenor and trombone, and soon after Sareski storms in with dynamic John Scofield-esque guitar works.
The appearance of saxophone maestro Francesco Bearzatti serves as a catalyst for the band. He blows a powerful tenor saxophone, which can be compared to Sonny Rollins at his freest and Albert Ayler at his more accessible. He frequently embarks on dialogues with other players, mostly with trombone player Vladan Drobicki, best heard on the second title track. Occasionlly the two of them (and the rest of the band) go into dog fights, with musicians cathartically playing their hearts out.
"The War" is one of the standout compositions on the album. It has some of the ambience present on Elflandia and it features beautiful and soulful melodies provided by DÅ¾ijan Emin on French horn, together with splendid guitar solos. Beautifully arranged, the tune reaches several climaxes with the band entering and exiting, and ends with dog fights and a cacophony of sounds much in the exalted manner of Ayler's Saints.
"I Used To Live Here," in two parts, at moments evokes the wistful sound of John Lurie. On Part 1, which is a solo saxophone composition, Bearzatti explores the bottom and the top of the instrument's range (Sareski joins in at the end). Part 2 showcases the knack Sareski has for arranging brass sections, again heard to advantage on Elflandia.
The malleable rhythm section of bassist Oliver Josifovski and drummer Aleksandar Sekulovski pushes these performances into a realm of dynamic interplay and authentic inspiration. "Beograd" (or Belgrade) portrays the dynamic lifestyle of the Serbian capital. It has a groove infused with soul-funk jazz and a great vibe that's somewhere between jazz and R&B. It sums up the best of Sareski and it shows that he has got it all: taste, touch, clarity, lyricism, imagination and wit.
The music throughout is unpredictable, but overall SoHoHo is a creative success for Sareski and the jazz artists who join him. It represents one of those rare occasions when the right group of great musicians got together on the right day, with the right music.
Tracks: Zlust; SoHoHo; Blow Your Own Horn; The War; I Used To Leave Here, Part 1; I Used To Live Here, Part 2; Beograd; Dju.
Personnel: Georgi Å areski: guitar, composer and arranger; Francesco Bearzatti: tenor saxophone; DÅ¾ijan Emin: French horn, Korg MS-20; Vladan Drobicki: trombone; Oliver Josifovski: upright bass; Aleksandar Sekulovski: drums.