Bojan Z's latest release for Label Bleu is perhaps his most satisfying work to date, showcasing his considerable compositional skills whilst allowing equal representation to the fine musicians who excel throughout.
The opening track, "Ulaz, is a definite highlight. Hypnotic drums, however gentle, with brushes and washing cymbals, a heavily plucked acoustic bass pulse, and a kaval (a Balkan flute) float ethereally in the background like some ancient spirit being evoked. It is not until a minute and forty seconds later that the splash of three piano notes arrives like the first drops of rain. A string of thick, damped notes are followed by a trickle of lighter notes which gather momentum and then softly peter out. This is classic Bojanshadow and light. And then the unexpected finale. The song recalls the mood of Spirit of Eden (EMI, 1988) by Talk Talk.
On the mid-tempo gem "Zeven, Bojan allows himself more room to maneuver. Ben Perowsky's drums and Bojan's piano propel each other along, then they swap roles and the drums take up the narrative while the piano marks time.
"Wheels and "Biggus D both feature the xenophone, or customized Fender Rhodes. The former, an in-your-face irreverent blues, has an Indians-on-the-warpath vibe and could be the bastard child of Frank Zappa and Jon Lord. "Biggus D" has moments of dissonance, great beauty and an unforgettable motif.
There are two non-originals on Xenophonia. The first, a tender, heartfelt rendition of David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes, is the surprise. The leader dedicates it to his father, who died this last year. In recent years Brad Mehldau has shone as the most original interpreter of contemporary tunes, inspired perhaps by Herbie Hancock's The New Standard (Verve, 1995). On the evidence of "Ashes to Ashes, this material could be equally fertile ground for Bojan Z to explore.
The second interpretation is Horace Silver's "The Mohican and the Great Spirit, a logical choice. The music of Horace Silver and Bojan Z both exhibit a wide range of musical styles, no doubt the result in both cases of colorful personal identities. Both artists write memorable compositions with a strong line in harmony, and both inject a dose of fun into their playing. Horace Silver perhaps represents what Bojan Z refers to as "one of the lost colors in contemporary piano playing.
"Pendant le temps, chez le general is easily the most abstract and challenging piece, with its fractured rhythms and fiery runs. "CD Rom, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the music pirates in Belgrade, is as breathless as it is brilliant, and the virtuoso kaval playing of Krassen Lutzkano is a delight.
This is Bojan Z's sixth record in thirteen years as a leader. There are many more prolific artists, but not so many who consistently produce such quality. If another Bojan Z record of similar standard requires two to three years to see the light of day, then I for one will not complain.
Ulaz; Zeven; Wheels; Biggus D; Ashes to Ashes; Pendant Ce Temps, Chez Le General; Xenos Blues; The Mohican and the Great Spirit; CD Rom; Izlaz.
Remi Vignolo: double bass; Ari Hoenig: drums (2-4,8,10); Ben Perowsky: drums (1,5-7,9); Bojan Zulfikarpasic: piano, Fender Rhodes, xenophone; Krasen Lutzanov: kaval (Balkan flute)
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