Serbian multi-instrumentalist Jasna Jovicevic seeks to bridge the worlds of chamber jazz and free improvisation on her latest release, Flow Vertical. But she's not content to stop there, as the album is animated by a heady concept drawing on Jovicevic's background in yoga to create music that is, as she puts it, "divided according to psychic centers in the human body." To be sure, the ambitious music on hand delves into a variety of emotional and stylistic registers, and much of it is quite fetching, so that even if one doesn't follow Jovicevic's metaphysical trajectory there is still a lot worth investigating here.
Admittedly, a good deal of the music is composed, so there isn't quite as much improvisational room as one might like on a record inspired in part by free jazz. But the chamber pieces here, like the opener, "Barefoot Battle," make excellent use of the timbres available in Jovicevic's sextet, with bassoonist Gabriella Koso's assertive ostinato blending nicely with the string trio of Filip Krumes (violin), Rastko Popovic (viola), and Dejan Bozic (cello), along with Jovicevic's bass clarinet, while percussionist Uros Secerov's sparse but thunderously effective drums drive the piece onward. Other pieces reveal their own charms, like the lighthearted "Drifting Upstream," featuring Jovicevic's playful vocals and some lively steel drumming, not to mention a jubilant and energetic solo from violinist Krumes; or the beautiful "Offering Tears for Pearls," with all three strings joining with Koso and, eventually, another vocal from Jovicevic, to generate the piece's poignant melancholy.
As good as the chamber-inflected pieces are, the other tracks on the record move into rather different domains, and while this detracts somewhat from the album's cohesiveness it does open a window onto other aspects of Jovicevic's vision. Her bracing saxophone roars out of the gate on "Ram Runs Through the Veins" in a vigorous duo with percussionist Secerov, which continues until the mid-point, at which the strings and bassoon re-emerge with Jovicevic's vocals to direct the piece back into a more tranquil register, albeit with a bit more of a forceful pulse behind it, thanks to Secerov's insistent drumming. And "Speak Loud, My Inner Child" gives Jovicevic another chance to stretch out on a far-ranging solo saxophone improvisation.
The closing track, "Silver Wings of a Thousand Petals," is one of the most affecting, and perhaps the best embodiment of Jovicevic's aesthetic. Featuring her haunting, languid alto saxophone alongside oblique string and minimal percussion accompaniment, it is a transfixing piece of music, with a compelling spirit of wonder and mystery. It's a fine finish to an album filled with possibility, most of it successfully realized.
Rising Barefoot Battle; Drifting Upstream; Ram Runs Through the Veins;
Offering Tears for Pearls; Speak Loud, My Inner Child; Fairy with the Dense
Green Eye; Silver Wings of a Thousand Petals.
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