Le Meridien Angkor
Siem Reap, Cambodia
June 25, 2006
From the opening "Algerique , with its joyous, dancing rhythms, to the encore, an exquisite, meditative version of Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes , Bojan Z demonstrated why he was the juror's choice for European Jazz Artist of the year 2005. Simply put, he has few peers.
He is not just another great technician either; he is a wonderful composer and a highly communicative musician. His songs are visual, almost cinematic in scope; his thundering left hand in "Flashback created a Boris Karloff horror movie motif. And if any Cambodians in the audience were having flashbacks of their own (and we sincerely hope they weren't), they needn't have panicked as a sense of fun in Bojan Z's playing is never far away. In "Solobsession, with its seamless contrasts from dramatic to tender to Scott Joplinesque rag, Bojan plays a warped blues. If Tom Waits played only jazz piano he might sound something like this. Here, Bojan is not just playing music; he is playing with
"La Petite Gitane has the quality of a bird in flight: It starts slowly, right and left hands engaged in gentle dialogue, like a bird shifting its weight from foot to foot on a branch, looking this way and that, contemplating flight, gathering itself, stretching a little and fluttering its wings, and then suddenly the song is in full flight although we didn't notice the moment of take-off. The music climbs and soars, peaking before leveling out and gliding gently until almost disappearing, and then returning, swooping and circling, playing again, before landing softly to rest.
The songs were introduced in French until Bojan surprised himself when he discovered that he was speaking in English. Like the mood shifts in his music, this change was seamless. It is no surprise that he has such command of musical idioms, too.
One of the highlights of the performance was "Edlerlezi , (popularized by Goran Bregovic), the gypsy name for the Serbian festival of St. George which signals the beginning of spring. Tinkling high notes created a fairy tale ambient, but it was the calm before the storm, as a maelstrom of heavy chords whipped up before eventually easing off into the sweet closing melody.
In introducing "Multi Don Kulti , a homage to trumpet legend and world music pioneer Don Cherry, (a significant influence on Bojan Z) Bojan said: "I don't like the term 'world music'. I prefer the French term, 'musiques du monde'. Musiques. Toutes les musiques . It is ravishing, lyrical piece of which Don Cherry would have doubtlessly approved.
While introducing "CD Rom , the title referring to the Roma in Belgrade pirating CDs, someone's mobile phone went off. Not making a big deal out of it, when the phone went off again, this time during the song, Bojan mimicked its ring tone with his right hand while all the time keeping the same rhythm going with his left. The song was exhilarating, in turn bold and brash, and then sweet and tender, like the Roma themselves. And it would make a better ring tone too.
After the concert I asked several Cambodians what they thought of the music. One woman summed up the general feeling: "It was strange to my ears, but very beautiful, she said. From North Africa to North America, through Turkey and the Balkans to the outer space of Bowie, Bojan Z communicates toutes les musiques. In all languages.