ZZ Quartet: Ratko Zjaca and Simone Zanchini with Adam Nussbaum and Martin Gjakonovski

This group has a unique musical vision that absorbs and reflects all manner of music while retaining an enviable individualism and high quality craftsmanship that can span from quiet intimacy to searing intensity. Diverse musical backgrounds, which include jazz, modern classical, world music, and free improvisation. They have been working on original compositions as well as crafting beautiful and haunting improvisations. Their music blurs the boundaries between notated music and free improvisation; the unique sonic landscapes that result are grounded in history, while pushing at the boundaries of modern improvised music.

Simone Zanchini

One of the most interesting and innovative accordionists on the international scene, his research moves through the boundaries of contemporary music, acoustics and electronics, sound experimentation, and cultivated contamination without forgetting tradition, thus resulting in a very personal approach to improvisation. He graduated with honours in classical accordion at the “G. Rossini” Conservatory of Pesaro, under Maestro Sergio Scappini. An eclectic instrumentalist, he has intense concert activities with groups of different musical extractions (improvisation, contemporary music, jazz, and classical). He has played in major festivals and shows in Italy (Clusone Jazz, Umbria Jazz, Tivoli Jazz, Time in Jazz – Berchidda, Sant’Anna Arresi, Barga Jazz, Mara Jazz, Jazz in’it – Vignola, Ravenna Festival, Rossini Opera Festival, Siena Jazz, Rumori Mediterranei – Roccella Jonica) and in the most important international festivals (France, Austria, Germany, England, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Spain, Norway, Russia, Tunisia, Lebanon, India, Venezuela, USA, and Japan). He collaborates with many internationally renowned musicians of different backgrounds: Thomas Clausen, Gianluigi Trovesi, Javier Girotto, Marco Tamburini, Massimo Manzi, Tamara Obrovac, Vasko Atanasovski, Paolo Fresu, Antonello Salis, Han Bennink, Art Van Damme, Bruno Tommaso, Ettore Fioravanti, Mario Marzi, Michele Rabbia, Andrea Dulbecco, Giovanni Tommaso, Gabriele Mirabassi, Frank Marocco, Bill Evans, Adam Nussbaum, Jim Black and John Patitucci. Since 1999 he has worked regularly with the soloists of the Scala Theater Orchestra of Milan, with whom he regularly tours all over the world. Along with his concert and research activities, Zanchini also supports didactic activities by conducting workshops on the accordion and improvisation. Since 1995 he has recorded about 20 albums and among the most recent, in 2006, was “Bebop Buffet” (Wide Sound) in duo with Frank Marocco, an exemplary album of the Bebop language expressed with the accordion. In 2009, in “Meglio solo!” (Silta Records), he experimented with the timbre possibilities of his instrument through the use of a particular midi accordion, live-electronics and laptops. In the same year, “Fuga per Art 5et” (Dodici Lune Records) is Zanchini’s only tribute album, a tribute to his great teacher and one of the greatest exponents of accordion jazz: Art Van Damme. In September 2010 he published the album “The Way We Talk” (In + Out Records), with an international quartet involving European and American musicians: Ratko Zjaca on the guitar, Martin Gjaconovski on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums. In May 2012 his album, “My Accordion’s Concept” (Silta Records), a project built on radical improvisations for acoustic accordion and live electronics, was Zanchini’s courageous attempt to subvert the common expressive code through his instrument, one of the most strongly rooted in so-called recognizable music. In 2015 he released “CASADEI SECONDO me” (Stradivarius) a tribute to Maestro Secondo Casadei, where Zanchini reinterprets in a modern key the most famous melodies of the composer from Romagna. In 2016, “Don’t try this anywhere,” was a personal tribute of Zanchini to the great saxophonist Michael Brecker and was an album with modern sounds and expressions recorded in New York with a band of the highest international calibre among others, with John Patitucci on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums. This album won the “Orpheus Award 2016” for best album of the year in Italy. Out in 2018 is “Cinema Paradiso,” a project on the music of Nino Rota that sees Zanchini playing solo with the prestigious HR Frankfurt radio big band of the German national radio-TV.

Ratko Zjaca

While respecting the harmonic contours and deeply ingrained melodies of those oft-covered tunes, and others presented here on Archtop Avenue, Zjaca puts his own personal stamp on them through reharmonization, subtle rhythmic shifts and improvisational flights Recording each track with a different archtop guitar, he interprets these beloved standards, and a few originals, with taste and invention. Always mindful of addressing the bass line while delivering rich chord voicings and spinning fluid melody lines, he strikes a delicate balancing act on these 12 tunes from Archtop Avenue. Archtop Avenue is a compelling addition to the canon of solo guitar and a crowning achievement in Zjaca’s career to date.

Bill Milkowski – Jazz critic, journalist, biographer

In this wonderful album, Ratko shares songs from the Great American Songbook and original compositions played with skill and feeling. The music is offered with a genuine reverence and a connection to the heart of the player. That is a rare and beautiful gift. Played without any hint of showing off, Ratko presents these beautiful melodies as food to be savored. This is beautiful music to use as a soundtrack for life. Sit back and relax and let the sounds take you away.

Rodney Jones – Guitarist/Composer/Educator – NYC, May 2023

“This new CD by guitarist Ratko Zjaca’s New Organ Group featuring the great American drummer John Riley, Renato Chicco on Organ and Stefano Bedetti on Tenor Saxophone is full of creative, well conceived, and grooving original compositions by Ratko, and absolutely first rate playing from everyone! It’s a tightly knit group and his best record yet in my opinion, well produced as far as overall conception, and great sound too! Check it out!” – Randy Brecker

“The unexpected delight of hearing John Riley on this recording with an all-star assemblage of European musicians Ratko Zjaca Nocturnal Four only makes the listening experience sweeter. John sounds right at home, and the rest of the musicians sound like New Yorkers! I highly recommend this album.” – Peter Erskine

“I listened and really enjoyed this album. The collaboration of these four artists is brilliant and extremely well played. They are all musicians of the highest caliber.” CD – Life on earth – Lenny White

“Once again I am pleased to hear that Ratko is continuing to carve his niche, as an important contributor to contemporary music. Enjoyable and inspiring.” – Reggie Workman

“Ratko’s new CD is full of great compositions played by a top notch band. With his lyrical playing, this makes for a most enjoyable listening experience.” – John Abercrombie

“Ratko put together a great band and found beautiful original compositions for us to play on… it was a very free session, musically speaking everyone played their hearts out.” – Randy Brecker

“Ratko presents a dynamic collection of jazz and attains something very rare indeed – a balance between body and soul.” – Vernon Reid

“My brother Mike thrived on originality, everything about him was different. He would have loved this CD which oozes originality and interaction at the highest level. These great musicians know how to LISTEN… this is just a stupendous effort… I really enjoyed it too!” – Randy Brecker

Guitarist / Performer / Composer / Recording Artist / Educator

Ratko Zjaca is an award winning guitarist, composer and recording artist with many critically acclaimed recordings under his name has recorded and performed with some of the most influential musicians in jazz and modern improvised music. He is an innovative musician, who is widely recognized as a technically advanced guitarist. He is known for being a relentless individualist, which is evidenced in his improvisational style. Ratko has had a prolific and extensive session history as a recording guitarist having played on many released recordings. He is a highly versatile player covering many areas of music but is best known for his work in the modern jazz and improvisation idiom. Ratko has released a number of albums as leader and sideman.

Ratko Zjaca is considered a very gifted stylist, assumes many roles in his macrocosm of music: contemporary guitarist, composer, performer and educator. His unique musical vision absorbs and reflects all manner of music while retaining an enviable individualism and high quality craftsmanship that can span from quiet intimacy to searing intensity. Diverse musical backgrounds, which include jazz, world music, and free improvisation. He has been working on original compositions  as well as crafting beautiful and haunting improvisations. He invented a unique style that is fearless, ambitious and volatile. He studied and graduated from Zagreb University. In his drive for the necessary knowledge and the enormous need for studies he sought his refuge in The Netherlands at the Rotterdam Conservatory. There he could get teachings by well-known masters. He also followed masterclasses and personal courses with Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Bob Brookmayer, John Abercrombie, Mick Goodrick, Hariprasad Chaurasia and others.

Unlike some of his colleagues Ratko is not focusing only on saxophone phraseologies, but is continuously expanding the guitar’s vocabulary within today’s world of music. Whilst improving his performance to create his typical own sound and style, Ratko as a gifted teacher with a loaded teaching schedule, is capable of transposing most advanced phrases and concepts into structures, suitable for every musician. He gives master classes all around the world for guitar and fretless guitar, in countries like Slovenia, the Netherlands, France, Croatia and the United States.

After completing his study at the Rotterdam Conservatory where he studied jazz guitar, composition and Indian classical music, he also studied at New York University School of Music. He started to work with own group and with American trumpet veteran Benny Bailey group. Ratko participated at many international festivals and has been booked for the major club dates at the European and American scene. Ratko has constantly made major efforts to enrich his experience with appearances and recordings. He was also performing and recording with Benny Bailey, Gary Peacock, Reggie Workman, John Patitucci, Al Foster, Jimmy Cobb, Steve Gadd, Antonio Sanchez, John Riley, Alvin Queen, Ron Carter, Randy Brecker, Miroslav Vitous, Jeff Tain Watts, James Cammack, Adam Nussbaum, Kirk Lightsey, Simone Zancini, Anders Bergcrantz, Shawnn Monteiro, Denise Jannah, Renato Chicco, Stefano Bedetti and many others.

In April 2000 Ratko recorded “A Day in Manhattan” in New York with members of John Coltrane and Miles Davis rhythm section, Reggie Workman and Al Foster.

Ratko is currently composing music and working on a new world music project on which he plays baritone, sitar, fretless, soprano, electric and acoustic guitars – this will be the second part of his previous record Shades of Spirit, Fretless Guitar Project.

Ratko started a new quartet with the legendary bass player and composer Miroslav Vitous.

Ratko released a quartet recording, Crossing The Border, in New York City with John Patitucci, Al Foster and Stan Mitrovic, with all original compisitions of all members of the quartet.

Ratko released a new record, Continental Talk, with John Patitucci, Steve Gadd, Randy Brecker and Stan Mitrovic.

He just released a new CD “The Way We Talk” with Simone Zanchini, Adam Nussbaum and Martin Gjakonovski.

“Now and Then” is Ratko’s latest CD with his favourite musicians: Miroslav Vitous, John Patitucci, Reggie Workman, Al Foster, Randy Brecker and others.

A new CD of the ZZ Quartet, “Beyond The Lines”, on In+Out Records is out now.

A new CD “Don’t Try This Anywhere” is out now – Ratko with Simone Zanchini, Adam Nussbaum, John Patitucci and Stefano Bedetti.

The CD “Don’t Try This Anywhere” has won the Orpheus Award for 2016 – the best Italian production 2015 for jazz music.

Ratko received the award for authorship and artistic creation in jazz music from the Croatian Composer Society 2019.

Ratko received the European discography award for the artistic creation in jazz music from Nisville Jazz Festival Organization 2021.

In 2021 Ratko with ZZ quartet released a double live album “Midnight in Europe” and in 2023 released a solo guitar album “Archtop Avenue”.
Both albums received excellent reviews all over the world.

“Life on Earth” – Ratko with Antonio Sanchez, Stefano Bedetti and Renato Chicco.

“Light in the World” – Ratko, with John Riley, Stefano Bedetti and Renato Chicco.

“The places you will go” – Ratko with John Patitucci, Miroslav Vitous, Reggie Workman, John Riley, Antonio Sanchez, Adam Nussbaum, Steve Gadd, Al Foster, Simone Zanchini, Stefano Bedetti and others.

“Archtop Avenue” – Ratko Zjaca solo guitar.

Ratko performs on handcrafted guitars made by Chris Mirabella.

Ratko endorses Godin Guitars.

Ratko uses CP-1A pickups for acoustic guitar from Carlos Juan.

Ratko Zjaca is nominated for best guitarist and musician in South American El Intruso New Creative Music Critics Poll Award for 2010 by an international vote of journalists.

Adam Nussbaum

His exceptional experience of time and style, combined with astounding improvisational ingenuity, make him one of the world most highly regarded and in-demand drummers.

Adam grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut and started to play drums at age 12 after studying piano for 5 years, also playing bass and saxophone as a teenager. He moved to New York City in 1975 to attend The Davis Center for Performing Arts at City College. While there he began working with Albert Dailey, Monty Waters, Joe Lee Wilson, Sheila Jordan and he played with Sonny Rollins in 1977 in Milwaukee.

In 1978 he joined Dave Liebman’s quintet and did his first European tour with John Scofield. During the early eighties he continued working with John Scofield in a celebrated trio with Steve Swallow. In 1983 he became a member of Gil Evans Orchestra and he played with Stan Getz as well. He later joined Eliane Elias/Randy Brecker Quartet, Gary Burton, and Toots Thielemans. In 1987 he began touring with the Michael Brecker Quintet. In 1988 they recorded the Grammy winning “Don’t Try This At Home”. During 1992 he was part of the Carla Bley Big Band and that same year John Abercrombie hired him to complete his organ trio with Dan Wall. Since then he’s keeping active in a wide variety of groups. Among them a recently formed quartet ‘B A N N’ with Seamus Blake, Jay Anderson & Oz Noy, A co-op quartet ‘NUTTREE’ with Abercrombie, Jerry Bergonzi & Gary Versace, (a new CD with this group is coming out on the Kind of Blue label), ‘We Three’ with Dave Liebman & Steve Swallow, Eliane Elias Trio, The James Moody Quartet, and also busy maintaining an active freelance schedule.

Adam has taught as an Adjunct professor at New York University, the New School and State University of New York at Purchase. He’s also doing clinics and master classes around the world.

A very versatile drummer who generally plays in advanced settings, Adam Nussbaum is considered a major asset no matter where he appears and one of the finest jazz drummers today.

Martin Gjakonovski

Born in Skopje, Macedonia in a family of jazz musicians. His father was the founder and conductor of the Macedonian Jazz Radio Big Band and his mother a jazz vocalist. Martin started playing classical double-bass at the age of 14, but soon his passion for jazz awoke and resulted with the founding of his first band, Trio Spato.

The opening door to the international jazz scene was a jazz workshop with the Coltrane bass player Reggie Workman in Groznjan, Croatia (1990).

In 1991 he moved to Cologne, Germany studying jazz bass at the Music Academy of Cologne.

He also learned from other great bass players such as Arild Andersen, John Clayton, Mike Richmond and Eddie Gomez.

In the coming years he became one of the busiest and most versatile bassists in Germany playing with such musicians as: Dusko Goykovich, Paul Shigihara, Ferenc Snetberger, David Friedman, Lee Konitz, Atilla Zoller, Don Friedman, Pete Yellin, Matt Wilson, Tony Lakatos, Ingrid Jensen, Andy Middleton, Kenny Wheeler, Kenny Werner, Charlie Mariano, Greg Hopkins, Don Menza etc.

In the last 10 years he worked and is still playing with Michael Sagmeister Trio, Dusko Goykovich Quintet, Nicolas Simion Group, Antonio Faraò Trio (feat. Bob Berg, Sonny Fortune, Rick Margitza, Gene Jackson), Lynne Arriale Trio (feat. Benny Golson, Steve Davis), Paul Kuhn Trio (feat. Toots Thielemans, Ack Van Rooyen, Jiggs Whigham), Bojan Z Expatriots, Paul Shigihara Group (feat. Mokhtar Samba), Frankfurt Jazz Trio and many others.

He has recorded more than 80 jazz and world music CDs.