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Album Review

Skopje Jazz Inc.: Incorporated

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Skopje Jazz Inc.: Incorporated
Skopje Jazz Inc.'s debut album is contemporary jazz of character and drive. The musicians, seasoned members of the Macedonian scene, approach this record with gusto, energy, and sensitivity. While trumpeter Trajče Velkov and guitarist Zoran Kostadinovski each contributed the compositions to Incorporated, there is an exceptional equanimity on display, which makes it seem like each composition was written with the others in mind. There are plenty of melodies and the quartet's feisty interplay explores the themes in all directions. The .tracks range from aggressive swingers to gentle and lyrical ballads.

There is a sneaky power to this band's music. The compositions seem to bloom and the ensemble rarely opens a track with a loud announcement. A prime example is the opening track, "The Professional," where Skopje Jazz Inc. builds its musical story layer by layer. Everything seems to flow and everyone seems to act like a painter. Playing at the center is trumpeter Velkov, who ranges wide melodically. The rhythm section expertly signposts each twist and change of mood while maintaining a dialogue of cymbal pings, bass counterpoints and press rolls. The quartet is joined by Kiril Kuzmanov on flute who paints a beautiful picture with his colorful bravuras.

The quartet keeps the lively energy well in hand on "Unclo Zo, Run," a bop cut. Velkov plays and leads with fearless gusto and kinetic bursts here with his Dizzy Gillespie-esque lines. Filipovski swings emphatically and interactively on this up-tempo burner, buoyed by groovy bass lines anchored by Gješovski.

Apart from the opening firecrackers, the album is full of lyrical, impressionistic music. On "Leena's Song," Velkov plays with a soft sound. Filipovski's touch is light but authoritative, and he maintains an engagingly conversational approach as he acts as a percussive colorist. This composition also features pianist Gordan Spasovski, whose melodic adventures capture a taste of Lennie Tristano or Thelonious Monk and hint at Bill Evans' refined elegance. As the composition progresses, so does the tempo ups.

The tempo slows on "Repentance," where Velkov uses a Miles Davis-esque tone with the mute and is supported by Kostadinovski's subtle John Scofield-esque watery-like strums on the guitar which adds depth and color. Filipovski contributes with restraint and he uses the brushes to add a laid-back feeling. "The Miller Man" shows the band's playful side, with Kiril Kuzmanov's flute lines combined with Kostadnovski's chords and Filipovski's complementary cymbal work.

"You and I" shows uncommon sensitivity and unity of purpose. The leisurely pace makes it seem as if Skopje Jazz Inc. has all the time in the world to linger in musical dialogue and explorations. Velkov finds new ways to surprise with his melodic and tonal inventiveness, while this reflective track highlights some fluid improvising by Kostadinovski. The musicians pass ideas with great ease and they anticipate and respond engagingly.

There is much to admire about both Velkov and Kostadinovski's writing which makes these four (and sometimes six) voices sound like a larger group. There is a large degree of collective endeavour, melodic inventiveness, and risk-taking riding alongside this audacious jazz group.

Track Listing

The Professional; Uncle Zo; Run; Leena's Song; To Repentance; The Miller Man; RH CH; You and I.

Personnel

Zoran Kostadinovski: guitar; Trajko Velkov: trumpet; Viktor Filipoovski: drums; Goran Gjosevski: bass.

Additional Instrumentation

Guests: Kiril Kuzmanov: flute; Gordan Spasovski: piano.

Album information

Title: Incorporated | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Zjm


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