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John Ilija Apelgren and Gordan Spasovski: Midnight Conversation

Nenad Georgievski By

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Duet records can be very revealing. They can demand the utmost attention from two musicians who play either in support, in discussion or entwined. Playing with another person means playing solo and in support at the same time and, when this works well, it can be magical. Something magical happens with the pairing of Macedonian jazz singer John Ilija Apelgren and jazz pianist extraordinaire Gordan Spasovski. The high expectations for this combination of musicians probably aren't high enough for what they deliver in terms of letting their distinctive attributes shine while also interacting at the highest levels of listening and enjoyment on their joint effort, simply titled Midnight Conversation.. As a result, this record is a deeply intimate, intuitive offering from these two artists who clearly relish the songs they have chosen to play.

Midnight Conversation is an exemplar of sophisticated music-making, with perfect phrasings, tempos, and melodies. It is a sensitive, melodically exploratory album of standards where a nocturnal feeling prevails and—even though the songs on the repertoire have been sung and recorded many times over—they still sound fresh. This record is so unique that it gives the feeling that the songs are performed in an intimate, small club-like atmosphere and not a cavernous recording studio. But, in general, Apelgren and Spasovski have an instant rapport, a kind of innate connectedness. Without support from a rhythm section, the duo's intimacy is like eavesdropping on an intensely private moment. Spasovski gives empathetic support, keeping the proceedings both light and lush. His impeccable touch, luminous tone, and elegant phrasing are all admirable as they contribute to the album's modesty. There is no extreme grandstanding here, only committed creativity.

And one can only marvel at the quality of Apelgren's voice whose appreciation and love for these songs emanates from every nuance of each song. Apelgren is a seasoned veteran with a deep and thorough knowledge of jazz history and the American songbook, and has performed and recorded many of these songs over the years in a variety of settings. Some of them like "Angel Eyes," "These Foolish Things," "My One and Only Love" are better known but he makes deep cuts with songs such as "Dreamer," "Stay With It" or "Who Can I Turn To."

Midnight Conversation is an album for quiet times when pleasure is on the agenda. In order to be appreciated fully, this album would best be listened to late at night preferably with a Scotch on the rocks.

Track Listing: Too young; Angel Eyes; Don't Let it Go To Your head; A Portrait of Jenny; These Foolish things; Dreamer; My One and Only Love; Moonlight in Vermont; Stay With It; When Sunny Gets Blue; Who Can I Turn To.

Personnel: John I. Apelgren: vocal; Gordan Spasovski: piano

Title: Midnight Conversation | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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