It has always been easy to produce feelings such as happiness, sadness, depression, madness or stupidity in music, but the hardest emotion to emulate has been joy, especially the joy of playing. Leb i Sol's album I Taka Nataka ("and so forth") clearly portrays the joy of playing, among other things. The birth of this album was a rather difficult one, as during the making of it two founding members left the group, each at different stages in the production. The 2006/07 reunion tour evidently confirmed the band's high status and relevance among its fans, but it sadly showed that the divisions that led the band to a ten year hybernation had not been overcome. Leb i Sol experienced quite a few personnel changes during their existence; in particular, they went through more drummers than Spinal Tap. In the end it was up to keyboardist Kokan Dimusevski and bassist Bodan Arsovski to bring this recording to its finish.
Just like anything that comes out through fire tends to be either very good or very bad, with no middle ground, the band's stormy relationships provide us with a very good record. With a high degree of anticipation, Leb i Sol brought the combined musical elements of rock, jazz and improvised syncopation back into the mainstream. In a way, the band returns to its basics, but with a maturity of an experienced band, fully alive with rich creative impulses.
Dimusevski exhibits the intensity and sensitivity he is most noted for as he serves as the group's pathfinder. Arsovski's skills on the bass are widely known and his characteristic position as one of jazz's best adds artistic bliss to the charismatic nature of the band. Combined with elements of other varying styles of music, Bozikov's display of tasteful guitar fingering is flawless and is punctuated by responses from the other guys.
The band's performance on the opening track, "Leb i Igri," is filled with improvised rhythms, syncopated melodies and the passionate embrace of fusion as an art form. It is the perfect opener as it portrays the richness that awaits the listener. On the other hand it is the only track on the album that echoes the ghost of Stefanovski's guitar.
On "Mandarina" they explore new sonic territories by combining elements of a Weather Report style of layered keyboards with techno trance elements buoyed by fast paced rhythms. The track lays down a supremely hip groove courtesy of drummer Srdjan Dunkic.
The standout track is "Astrolab," a brilliant mid-tempo track that obviously came from Arsovski's fondness for folk tunes and rhythms. The track is devoted to Pece Atanasovski, the legendary piper, with whom Arsovski has been associated closely on several projects (such as Soul Brothers, Endless View). It features strange and catchy female folk vocal samples over infectious and groovy bass lines.
"Si Zaljubiv Edno Mome" is a folk song that the band performed as an instrumental during the 1980s and was never recorded. As a band that has done numerous folk covers, this time they decided to take a different road by adding Dado Topic on vocals, thus turning this sad folk song into a powerful, soul- yearning ballad. Dimushevski's sparse keyboard phrases provide the perfect backdrop for some excellent singing and band playing.
"It's Warming Up" is the obvious surplus on this album. It wouldn't have felt missing if it wasn't here in the first place. It is not a flop in the usual way, but it is a greasy rock tune that is below the band's standards.
The closing track, "Sakam da Ti Dojdam," recited by actor Sergej Trifunovic, is a melodic, breezy vocal tune made all the more appealing in the context of the rest of the album, as it demonstrates how easily the band's approach translates into the format of a more conventional pop-song.
Both individually and collectively, this band of merry men plays a brand of music that is qualitatively superior to a lot of things offered. There is an open invitation to come and see how this album sounds live. The band fuses both the improvisations and rhythmic fearlessness of jazz with the electric passion of rock into a mix here that is near perfect. The effect is impressive and makes for an outstanding album with a wonderful blend of playing and writing.
Tracks: Leb i Igri; Galeb; Goodbye Pepe; Mandarina; Astrolab; Si Zaljubiv Edno Mome; Paramatma; It's Warming Up; Sakam Da ti Dojdam.
I love jazz because it swings.
I was first exposed to jazz in Houston.
I met Joe LoCascio and Bob Henschen.
The best show I ever attended was Pat Martino.
The first jazz record I bought was Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
My advice to new listeners is to relax on 2 and 4 beats.