Pianist Maja Alvanović and her self-fashioned Majamisty Trio with bassist Ervin Malina and drummer Istvan Cik put Serbian jazz on the map. The trio's 2013 debut Mistyland showed three young artists at top of their game right out of the gate, with classical cylinders running along a track paved in jazz. The sophomore effort LOVE expands the traction of their world. "Our appetites increased," Alvanović tells All About Jazz. "We wanted to enrich our sound by adding more and more colors to the spectrum." Noteworthy is the depth of camaraderie in the album's starter, "Thin Moon," which reveals an effortless feeling of variation, a sure reflection of intense classical training, and is marked by a lyrical sweep that puts one in mind of early Steve Kuhn. While the clean melodies, chamber music sensibilities, and democratic arrangements of Mistyland linger, now the composing is more intimate, even as it draws from a wider palette. The band flexes its groove muscles to alluring effect. Whether subtly (as in the pileated "Suddenly Japan" or the contemplative "Coolah Trance") or pointedly (as in the lightly anchored "Bloomin'"), each head nod sprouts a leaf in a botanical garden of discoveries.
Alvanović and her bandmates possess an extraordinary ability and willingness to go with the flow, shifting spectra to suit the needs of every emotional turn. "It was as if we were guided and protected by the force of inspiration and love," Alvanović recalls about first playing together. "The music was radiating this spirit and we immediately knew it was going to be an exceptional journey for us. And it has been." Perhaps nothing so directly captures the album's dynamic range than this idea of an exceptional journey. One can feel its wayfaring impulse in the joie de vivre of "Chat With Gagarin," which floats Alvanović's sparkling right hand on an ocean of rhythm section waves, and in the skating arpeggios of "Careless Moment."
Extra contributions this time around make everything sing. Aleksandra Drobac is a longtime associate of the band and is their so-called "fourth instrument." Her wordless vocals render unique instrumental shadings throughout the clima(c)tic narrative of "Rain Dots" (to which ex-Yugoslavian jazz legend Uroš Šecerov also lends his percussive genius) and bird-like brilliance to "Little Cosy Keysy House." Guitarist Gisle Torvik and saxophonist Bunford Gabor make "Mustard Fields" one of the fullest of the set, while trumpeter Damir Bacikin spices the balladic title track to just the right amount of savoriness.
Says Alvanović, "LOVE resembles a cycle of ten 'Moments musicaux,' each a unique and self-sustainable world created out of genuine inspiration." Even so, the transformative power of the whole is undeniable as it traverses sometimes-mournful passages into the glare of resolution. "Love emerges as the everlasting power which transcends the ephemeral," she goes on to say, "thus giving a true meaning to life. It's exactly what this music is about." The end result is a beginning cause, an album that pushes the nubile trio into more aged directions, spaces where reflection and thought dance under the watchful eyes of those no longer with us.
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