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Ratko Zjaca / Simone Zanchini: The Way We Walk

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Jazz musicians are, in essence and practice, explorers and high-wire artists. The finest improvising players use their instruments to mine the dimensions of sound, rhythm and emotional perception, doing so without a safety net. Like its keyboard cousin the piano, the accordion as an instrument that challenges its players to explore the technical and harmonic universes out there. Unlike the piano, however, the accordion has only recently crossed cultural barriers into jazz and into more abstract playing.

The Way We Talk, a collaborative effort of Croatian guitarist Ratko Zjaca and Italian accordionist Simone Zanchini, is an interesting exploration of sound, textures and rhythm. With bassist Martin Gjakonovski and drummer Adam Nussbaum in the crew, the quartet serves up a fine array of original selections. There's intelligence, humor, emotion, and a very playful sense to the selections and solos.

From the exciting Morse code pulses of "Pippo," (perhaps a nod to fine accordionist Angelo DiPippo?) and on to the exquisitely smooth triple-feeling "Twilight Time Again," Zanchini, Zjaca and Gjakonovski skip, slide and slither so nicely that the music and the improvisations predominate, and the instrumentation melds into melody. With Nussbaum's magnificent rhythmic and textural support, this is music of interest, fine improvisations and joy. There's a flavor of smoother rather than straight-ahead jazz, but, the variations in theme and textures along the way maintain and develop interest.

The quirky "Kandinsky Night," a selection dedicated to Weather Report co-founder/bassist Miroslav Vitous, flips and skirts melodic and rhythmic fragments. Nussbaum's initial[ly subtle but subsequently fierce drive mirrors and channels both Weather Report's "Birdland" and the group's more abstract work. A more thoughtful "One Mind Temple" further displays Zanchini and Gjakonov's fine musicianship.

"Frida Is Vanished" is a nostalgic Euro-ballad, Zanchini theatrically meandering across majors and minors with a timbre reminiscent of harmonica great Toots Thielemans. The pipes, cries and bellowing of "Morgagni Est" have Zanchini sounding calliope-like, before moving into a funky arabesque melody, while "La Stanza di Arturo" scoots along at greyhound pace, with accordion and guitar bopping.

"The Forest of Love" features Zjaca's beautiful acoustic guitar in a romantic display of shades. "Adam and Eva" strolls along happily, and "Friend for Life" joins accordion and guitar in a stroll across a musical memory lane. "Out of Body" perks along in a lilting jazz waltz feel.

The Way We Talk is a fine performance by talented and extremely well-versed players. The accordion sounds that Zanchini produces are a far cry from the polka-instrument rap accordionists might encounter.

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 Walk | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: In+out record


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