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Vasko Atanasovski: Phoenix

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Vasko Atanasovski: Phoenix
Phoenix captures the voice of one of Eastern Europe's most acclaimed and creative musical ensembles, the Adrabesa Quartet founded and led by Slovenian maestro Vasko Atanasovski, and amplifies this unique voice throughout MoonJune Records' global distribution network. Phoenix thus demonstrates that the globalization of jazz hasn't muted the strong, perhaps even essential, regional accents in its overall voice.

Founded in 2005, the Adrabesa Quartet on Phoenix features a somewhat unusual though colorful instrumental lineup. Founder and leader Atanasovski is featured on flute and alto and soprano saxophones, and wrote every tune except for the collectively improvised finale "Outro." Italian accordion master Simone Zanchini has served in the Quartet from the start and is also a featured soloist with the Milan Scala Orchestra. Tuba player Michel Godard comes from France, and percussionist Bodek Janke from Poland. Ariel Vei Atanasovski, the leader's teenage son, joins on cello.

On Phoenix, the ensemble's individual musicianship and improvisational skills, and the way everyone plays together, sure sound like jazz. But Atanasovski's compositions string together unique instrumental combinations and textures that can also sound quite different from jazz. The opening "Meeting" first convenes the ensemble, then rips into a dramatic, Eastern European-sounding twirling dance. In "Green Nymph," tuba supports the flute like a bassist might follow a guitarist or pianist singing its melody. Violin swirls in a colorful gypsy sound that introduces this tune's best part, an intuitive and dynamic drum, tuba, and accordion three-way conversation played like a jazz piano trio.

The tuba and accordion players are magic throughout this set. Zanchini opens "Liberation" with intersecting ripples and layers of colorful arpeggios, then drops into the sound of a massive church choir organ, stutters in and out of a sprint and ultimately whirls into a cyclonic solo that sets the spirit of this tune free. Godard's tuba at first blows "Balet" right out of its moorings but rights it to prop up the leader's soprano solo, and then rips into a solo so knotted and blue that he sounds like a trombone player jazzing on bebop. These are both first-rate compositions from Atanasovski, too.

The collectively improvised "Outro" floats and wobbles in the air like a musical cloud, each instrument floating in its own orbit and yet rotating around all the others until the tuba just kind of lifts off like a big balloon that pulls all the other sounds up, up and away in its wake and closes this set of heavy music with a very light sound.

Track Listing

Meeting; Green Nymph; The Partisan Song; Liberation; Balet; Concerto Epico; Thornica; Yelow Sky; Outro.

Personnel

Vasko Atanasovski: saxophone; Simone Zanchini: accordion; Michel Godard: tuba; Bodek Janke: drums; Ariel Vei Atanasovski: cello.

Album information

Title: Phoenix | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: MoonJune Records

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