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Ratko Zjaca / Simone Zanchini: The Way We Talk

Dan Bilawsky By

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Guitarist Ratko Zjaca's previous albums have been cross-cultural affairs, with top-flight American jazz musicians joining the Croatian guitarist on his musical journeys. While these players have vastly different backgrounds, Zjaca's music has acted as a binding agent, allowing these disparate musical personalities to coalesce into a solid working unit that moves together in service of the music. The Way We Talk continues this global trend with an American drummer, Italian accordion player and Macedonian bassist joining the guitarist, but the music here is in a completely different vein from Zjaca's prior outings.

Zjaca shares top billing with accordionist Simone Zanchini, and the program is entirely made up of pieces from each of the co-leaders. The quartet's unique instrumentation—spiced up with the addition of electronic effects on certain pieces—helps tie things together, but the music is all over the stylistic map. The album opener, "Pippo," begins with some scurrying accordion lines, underscored with rhythmic punctuation from drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Martin Gjakonovski. After Zanchini has some fun, the musical seas part and allow for Zjaca's guitar work to come to the fore. The follow-up to this Zanchini-penned piece is a Zjaca original that works off a relaxed swing feel. This piece could qualify as an almost-waltz, but measures of two get mixed into the music. Gjakonovski's solo is a winner here, and the song moves to a loping swing feel as things wind down.

While the first two pieces illustrate a profound difference in each man's compositional strategies, they don't define either one. Zanchini's romantic side comes out on the seductive "Frida Is Vanished," while Zjaca matches that mood with "A Friend For Life." Stockhausen-esque sounds and other oddities seep into the mix on the far-reaching "Morgagni Est," beginning with aural approximations of a didgeridoo (or a mooing cow) and followed by some eerie, unsettling sounds. Out of nowhere, a hip, faux-Arabian melody appears and vanishes, making one more showing at the end of the piece.

Plenty of people might walk away after hearing this number, but they'd be missing out. Nothing else is as challenging a listen, and each of the remaining pieces are gems. Zanchini's burning, intense "La Stanza Di Arturo" features some aggressive, driving cymbal work from Nussbaum, while Gjakonovski's bass work acts a catalyst for rhythmic change. Zjaca's "Forest Of Love" is a gorgeous duo delight from the co-leaders, while "Adam and Eva" almost sounds like an organ-group at various times, featuring Zjaca's most straightforward and impressive guitar solo of the album. The closing "Out Of Body" is a swinging jazz waltz with cleanly articulated melodic thoughts. Zanchini finally lets his chops run wild, delivering some jaw-dropping runs during this tour-de-force display.

Zjaca has taken a bold step forward with The Way We Talk, collaborating with Zanchini to move beyond their individual visions and broaden the possibilities inherent in guitar-accordion collaborations.

Track Listing: Pippo; Twilight Time Again; Kandinsky Night; One Mind Temple; Frida Is Vanished; Morgagni Est; La Stanza Di Arturo; The Forest Of Love; Adam And Eva; A Friend For Life; Out Of Body

Personnel: Ratko Zjaca: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, effects; Simone Zanchini: accordion, live electronics; Martin Gjakonovski: acoustic bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.

Title: The Way We Talk | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: In+out record

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