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Croatian guitarist Ratko Zjaca and Italian accordionist Simone Zanchini hit artistic pay dirt when they teamed up for The Way We Talk (In + Out Records, 2010). They joined forces with Macedonian bassist Martin Gjakonovski and American drummer Adam Nussbaum for that album, creating a cross-cultural blend of music that speaks to specific musical idiosyncracies and universal truths in sound. Now, a few years after that initial encounter-on-record, this outfit returns with a follow-up that's just as pleasing and unique as its debut.
on Beyond The Lines, this foursome delivers music that's alternately breezy, brainy, brash or bold. They create beautiful aural tapestries ("Bale Con La Uno" and "Days Of Old"), use simple, evolving riffs and overlapping ostinatos as a leaping off point for something greater ("The Clockwork"), and delight in delivering a zany, left-of-center hoedown ("Celtico"). Understatement also has its place in the program ("River Spirit"), as does full-steam-ahead interplay ("The Judge Says You Are Innocent") and tuneful cheeriness ("The Easy Whistler"). These men truly manage to cover a lot of ground as they move beyond the lines and wherever else they please.
Some of these pieces use textural elements as structural cornerstones while others tend to be built on and around rhythmic foundations, but all of the music speaks to the creative spirit of its makers. Zanchini seems to have the greatest range of all the men at play, serving as instigator one minute and creating sonic sedatives the next, but Zjaca is the solo voice of note. His solo spots simultaneously display deep thought and highlight an off-the-cuff creative streak that's ever-visible. Nussbaum and Gjakonovski prove to be an organic pair that's willing and able to do whatever the music demands, be it moving forward, receding into the shadows, or playing things straight.
In ZZ Quartet, differences and likenesses both prove to be assets. These four men wear their individuality and togetherness like a badge of honor on Beyond The Lines.
Track Listing: Vogio Una Donna; Celtico; River Spirit; Freak In Freak Out; The Clockwork; Bale Con La Uno; The Judge Says You Are Not Innocent; Days of Old; The Lost Call; The South Song; The Easy Whistler.
Personnel: Ratko Zjaca: guitars; Simone Zanchini: accordion; Martin Gjakonovski: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.