Alright folks, get ready for a little serb-panenthnic, organically developed, jazz-jam fusion. This one incorporates a couple of modern-day, red tape cutting features that, personally, I'm unable to determine why aren't much more widespread in today's market (or lack thereof) for adventurous, cutting edge "jazz"; it's a live recording and it's independently marketed. Just so happens, it stars some young stallions who should be much more widely heard. Additionally, it's another exclusive-yes, you heard (well, read) it here first- although I can only hope accounts of this release become much more widespread.
The most well known of the band is electric bass-man Matt Garrison, who, aside from being the baddest electric bassist on the planet (you read that right), has, of late, adopted a refreshing guerilla-type ethic to his career, which may be best summarized as, "The hell with it, I'm putting myself out there!" This shift in attitude luckily came to a head in 2000, with the indie release of a solo record, which at age 30, was actually long overdue and, in the words of Bass Player Magazine, "raised the bar" for the instrument's practitioners worldwide.
Matt recently joined Herbie's band, making him the second member of this unit to do so. Israeli sax whirlwind Eli Degibri already has toured with Mr. Hands in support of the "Gershwin's World" project. He's also got a huge sound on the tenor that recalls one Mr. Lovano, although the chances of that particular embouchure ever being applied to a context of this type are slim, at best . By the way, this cd comes to you live from that mini-club with maxi-taste, New York City's Izzy Bar. The first thought I had upon hearing Eli's massive tone was that of club goers literally being blown up and out of the sub-street-level confines of the bar onto the East Village pavement (especially when Eli gets to overblow, such as on "We Love Jazz" ).
Pete Rende adds numerous elements to the group, from piano to effected wurly to accordion. He's appeared with Matt Glassmeyer, Trilok, Alexis Cuadrado, and Chris Cheek, among many others. While he doesn't play on every cut here, he brings a unique approach to the electric piano (for evidence of this, check out his spaced-out solos on Tito and 5:0), and the ability, at a moment's notice, to use his many voices to bring almost any color or texture to the fore.
Finally, young Yugoslav drummer Marko Djordjevic, who has gigged with Wayne Krantz, Rick Margitza, and Hal Crook, brings unbridled power and energy to the kit while maintaining (just barely so-in a mind-boggling way) accuracy, touch and feel. An individual style is getting to be a tired expression as applied to musicians, so let's try this- the majority of time, Marko sounds (or live, appears) like he's playing furiously, hitting the drums so fast and so often, he's in danger, at any given moment, of tottering into tastelessness, but absolutely never does so. As a drummer/leader/writer, his presence is felt in numerous ways. Most importantly a native, folk atmosphere is brought to every tune and arrangement, and returned to often, even when a tune goes funk, fusion or space-rock. His vocals, both foreign-worded and wordless, are there for most of the heads and melodies, or even to add an almost primordial push as the band presses onward through the 70 minutes plus of tunes. From a practical standpoint, it's good that he's leading the date, because of all the instruments to capture live, drums are the most problematic, and his performance, both in nuance and intensity, is worthy of meticulous documentation.
But what makes this date for me, is that while the music here clearly falls into the "fusion" realm, the adjective that probably least accurately describes it is technical. Here's a better free-associated list: fun, loose, jammy, big, jaw-dropping, world, intense, collaborative - in the moment.
A tool used throughout is that themes, in the form of mini-heads or bars of music, are used, returned to and/or recycled at different tempos and with subtly different rhythmic accents. "Atlanta 530800" is the one I'd pick to provide for an example of what Sveti is all about. A variation of a folky melody that recalls the first track, it begins with lyrical sax over chordal accompaniment in the bass, with the occasional unison vocal of Djordjevic. This turns into a hard bop-type, straight-ahead solo section, showcasing Degibri's abilities and sound, as he takes advantage of the most space given to him on the disc, over an incredible walking bass, partial chord solo, partial etude, partial flamenco excursion provided by Garrison and, what is, if you listen closely, an absolutely frenetic drum-solo-that's-not happening under it all. The facet of this I'd like to emphasize is that the tunes bear multiple listenings, not only because so much is happening, but because they unfold so agreeably, always rewarding the listener inquisitive enough to make the effort to take several passes at it. I mean, start with the melodic instrument of the moment, work your way to the complexity, yet groove, of the bass lines, and by the time your ear gets to the drums you'll be reeling in surprise and intrigue as to how all of that stuff got played, yet sounded so integratedly smooth. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Matt and Marko have been jamming since their Berklee days, or maybe it's that their scope of technique and originality of styles just mesh seamlessly. Oh yeah, we're not done describing "Atlanta 530800" yet; Garrison shows us his technique-recombinant, sinuously fluid, effortlessly executed, linear solo style....featuring his now patented II-V chord superimpositions... spiced with harmonics, feedback, four-finger Spanishisms and more. Transcriptions of this stuff have zero likelihood of making their way into the public domain! Finally, Marko's solo is also style-representative, featuring infinite kit hits, yet somehow melodic execution- or perhaps it's just an illusion of melodicism provided by his Jarrett-like (although more on key) vocalizations.
There are many other highlights here as well, including the very next tune, "Idolo Ruse", which starts with a spacey-freakethnic funk vamp and turns into a Serb folksong complete with accordion. The melody to this one, which actually has a set of lyrics, is a keeper that's stuck in my head since taking the disc out of heavy rotation. Throughout, Djordjevic vacillates viscerally from sounding real rough to really darn good as serb-syllabic vocalist. Other neat devices include samples of folk recordings, dialog and electronic vamps, the old, still frustrating, fade-on-the-killer-solo trick, and some lower-tech bits of liveness, one of which ("We Love Jazz Too") nicely draws you into a front table at the Izzy, complete with conversing patrons and Marko's cheerleading.
All in all, a very inventive release by an absolutely monster group of players. Let's face it-no way any of the majors are going to be releasing uncompromising live music like this anytime soon, and it's the rare practitioners of indie fusion who have the conviction, chops, tunes and obdurate defiance of convention to put something like this out there! For the time being, get it at Audiophile Imports (www.audiophileimports.com). A website (www.svetimarko.com ) is on the way -in the meantime, you can reach Marko by email at [email protected]