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Marko Djordjevic & Sveti: Something Beautiful

John Ephland By

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Drop the "needle" down anywhere on Something Beautiful and you're likely to find ... something beautiful. There's some hidden spirit that carries this music along from track to track as drummer/composer Marko Djordjevic takes his merry band of four (when it's not a trio) through 12 hearty originals, all of them Djordjevic's.

After listening to two new ones from Jimmy Cobb and Louis Hayes, "Heart Bop" hearkens back to those rough-and-ready days, in a sense setting the stage for what is to follow on Something Beautiful. We hear the Serbian-born Djordjevic with the well-known group Sveti, in full up-tempo swing mode, his fills not superfluous but a kind of egging on for pianist Bobby Avey en route to Eli Degibri's robust tenor sax solo. It's busy, it's rambunctious, it's fun, and the drummer is all over the place, his technique in the service of something akin to the title of the song. But there's more than just an echo of the days when Cobb and Hayes were more front and center. Otherwise, yours truly would probably not be here, writing this review.

"Which Way Is Down" is a subtle, busy conversation between the trio, which also includes bassist Desmond White. It's busy in the sense that it's active, but it's also more dreamlike, Avey's skill as a pianist clearly on display as he watches Djordjevic's every move, interacting with White as a kind of alter ego, but also when the pace drops "down" and Avey can just meander a bit, drummer and bassist in tow, White's quiet, restful turn soon to follow. This is the gel that keeps the music flowing throughout Something Beautiful, Djordjevic's pen and the players' execution suggesting a band that has learned patience as a threesome, the drummer's restrained shuffles the perfect complement.

The middle section of Something Beautiful is less dramatic, more a kind of display of styles, "Home Made" and "Ten Large Serbians" showcasing the band's flair without any riveting, stop-what-your-doing moments. More examples of how everyone works together in idioms. The alternate tenorist on board is Tivon Pennicott, surfacing on the rhythmically "Poinciana"-flavored title track. There's a more rootsy dimension to this song, though, the melody nothing like the Ahmad Jamal tune, more a folk visitation, Pennicott's playing straight out of the jazz lineage but couched in this other-world European style all the while exuding a kind of sweaty joy only found in a club somewhere on a summer night in New York City. Avey's piano playing here, by the way, is exquisite, dreamlike, Djordjevic's playing sensitive with an edge.

Djordjevic's playing at times reminds one of Tony Williams, his adept skills with sticks on all skins and steel both a kind of surging but also always capable of restraint. You get the impression this guy has the chops, mostly held in reserve. And this despite the fact that it's his record. And, like Williams (and unlike Cobb and Hayes), he seems keen to write his own music and not settle for others' material when making his own statements.

"Flaxy World" sets the stage for the last section, Djordjevic's rolling snare figures combined with Avey's punctuations and White's deep listening telling this listener that it's the trio that, once again, makes Something Beautiful cook. Restless, it's not the blues but it has the elements. And "War Song," while it includes Pennicott's strong tenor, still sits as a trio piece that is the least jazz-like song here, but so what? It plays like another meditation of something horrible wrapped inside something beautiful. The rockin,' flamboyant "Celebration" breaks the mood into something akin to a wedding reception with dervish dancing all around, and the gently swinging trio piece "Svetlana Swinging On A Summer Evening" may have one re-enjoying the lovely refrain from the third track, "Svetlana," the song's folk cadence and sweetly sung melody enough to keep one guessing as to what comes next from this unpredictable composer who also happens to be a damn good drummer.

Track Listing: Heart Stop; Which Way Is Down; Svetlana; Ten Large Serbians; Home Made; Something Beautiful; 2007; Chimes; Flaxy World; War Song; Celebration; Svetlana Swinging On A Summer Evening.

Personnel: Bobby Avey, piano; Desmond White, upright bass; Eli Degibri (1, 4, 11), Tivon Pennicott (6, 8, 10), tenor saxophone; Mark Djordjevic, drums.

Title: Something Beautiful | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Goalkeeper Records


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