Recorded just two weeks after his father's passing, Matija svira Arsena
(or Matija Plays the Music of Arsen) by jazz pianist Matija Dedic is a moving tribute to Arsen Dedic, the renowned Croatian singer, songwriter, writer, translator and composer. Probably there is a plethora of artists today who are too easily compared to some of the most renowned artists of our times, songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, but none of them in reality could get close to the dizzying heights of the pantheon of these artistic Gods. Arsen was never someone who was merely compared with these people, quite the contrary, he was an equal member of this exclusive club. Not only was he a gifted lyricist and songwriter, but he was also classically trained musician, and had done numerous soundtracks and theater music in his lifetime. To be sure, his oeuvre counted hundreds of songs that were also covered by an army of other artists belonging to different generations.
Equally inspired by his oeuvre was his son and pianist Matija Dedic, who had carved his own jazz path independent to his dad's. Matija, who is one of the finest jazz pianists around is an accomplished composer of his own, but is best known for his jazz interpretations of other people's music, mostly from pop, like the Porin awarded Tempera
(Dallas Records, 2005) where he reinterpreted the music of Croatian superstar Gibonni. Around the same time he did his first record with his dad's compositions Drugi Pogled
(Dallas Records, 2005).
Tribute records are always a challenge and regardless of the motivation, there is a question of how to capture the music's essence without sounding too imitative or how to distil the works to its fundamental simultaneously imbuing them with something new in order to give them a life of their own. The difference between the first record and the second is ambiance and dynamics. Drugi Pogled
is a band record and therefore more upbeat and dynamic. It is more of a pop record with jazz inclinations than a proper jazz record. It even features both his parents, including his mom, renowned singer Gabi Novak, on two songs. Matija Svira Arsena
is a subdued, quiet and mournful solo piano record with occasional duets, either with singer Massimo Savic and guitar extraordinaire Miroslav Tadic. The music here is generally mournful, full of space, floating and very much a soundtrack for one's thoughts.
The choice of songs ranges from soundtrack themes, such as "Glembajevi, Main Theme," "U Registraturi," the main theme and "Laura" to popular classics such as "Moderato Cantabile," "Tvoje Nezne Godine," "Dida Moj" or "Sve Sto znas o Meni." Having played alongside Arsen as his pianist of choice for the previous 10 years, Matija is more than adept to playing these tunes that in a way have a more personal meaning to him and map internal emotions. The inaugural "Glembajevi, Main Theme," is emblematic of the album's fecundity by extracting melodies into a singular amalgamation of rustling and stillness. Thus it sets the ambiance for the whole record.
Matija proves to be a keen and sensitive pianist whose style tends toward crisp and deep and introspective melodies. He simply meanders quietly through these songs where the pace suggests infinite patience with the selections. His playing is elegant, emotional, erudite and completely engaging. One track quietly leads into the next in what it feels like a soundtrack of sorts. For a start, Arsen's own melodies, as time went on, were inspired from different sources of music, be it French chansons, pastoral melodies or classical music, but it's Matija's musical intelligence that is taking them somewhere deep. He uses his piano to plumb the depths of his instrument's power in order to create mood. As a result, the music is peaceful, but nevertheless it is fathomlessly powerful.
The album ends with two duets, singer Massimo Savic with whom Matija has been regularly playing, and Miroslav Tadic. "Razgovor sa konobarom" is an elegant ballad, but the duet between an acoustic guitar and piano is simply magical as both instruments weave together in a symbiotic way.
As in all tribute music, the musician's own finished project has to stand on its own apart from the reflected glory of its inspiration. This is a moving tribute and farewell from one ace to another, from son to father. Matija svira Arsena
breathes in black and white, but breathes out only vivid colors.
Glembajevi (Naslovna tema); Ni ti, ni ja; U registraturi (Naslovna
tema); U registraturi (Laura); Sve sto znas o meni; Kuca pored mora;
Moderato cantabile; Zaludu me svitovala mati; Tvoje nezne godine;
Dida moj; Razgovor s konobarom; Ne placi.
Matija Dedic: piano; Massimo Savic: vocal on "Razgovor sa konobarom";
Miroslav Tadic: guitar.