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Z-Country Paradise: Live in Lisbon

Glenn Astarita By

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The multinational quintet revs up the audience on this wild and scruffy excursion that skirts a misty demarcation between punk jazz and avant-garde improvisation along with off-kilter jazz rock tendencies. Vocalist Jelena Kuljic's guileful and emotive iterations instill hip, Beat Generation-like narratives in concert with the band's jarring and edgy grooves via some recoiling breakouts and oscillating storylines.

Indeed, the formidable frontline of esteemed reedman, Frank Gratkowski—a longtime Leo Records artist—and ace guitarist Kalle Kalima infuse their distinct styles into these snaky, rough-hewn pieces. Moreover, the presentation is designed with fluctuating mini-themes and a ballsy high-impact impetus, occasionally transforming into a runaway force, and outlined with jagged edges.

On "Talking to Little Birdies" Gratkowski, (bass clarinet) and Kalima execute foreboding unison choruses above a slanted funk vamp. But they rearrange the primary theme within the same tempo, embellished by Kuljic's turbulent dialogues phrased as though she's bestowing words of wisdom to the audience. Here, the ensemble veers off into sequences of social discord.

"Memories" is tattooed with Gratkowski's weeping alto sax notes, entwined with Kailima's sullen and animated riffs, leading to a mystical climate with a carefree musical gait. But Kuljic rings loud and clear on the album closer "Success," stating that we should "set aside hours of the day, and set priorities before other work hounds you." Sure enough, the best laid plans are often detoured with unexpected surprises, especially at the office. Moreover, the soloists etch out a punchy pulse, segueing to a pummeling finale. In sum, the musicians aim to taunt the mind's eye amid a sense of immediacy, slyness and good-natured fun.

Track Listing: Two; My Little Lovelies; Season in Hel; Talking to Little Birdies; Clouds Gathering; Memories; Success.

Personnel: Frank Gratkowski: alto sax, bass clarinet; Jelena Kuljic: voice; Kalle Kalima: guitar; Oliver Potratz: electric bass; Christian Marien: drums.

Title: Live in Lisbon | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Leo Records

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