Midnight in Europe
CD: ZZ Quartet – Midnight in Europe
ZZ Quartet – These are mainly the charismatic Croatian guitarist Ratko Zjaca and the Italian accordionist Simone Zanchini! They were joined by experienced rhythm fighters such as Macedonian double bassist Martin Gjakonowski and American drummer Adam Nussbaum. Zjaca and Zanchini represent an eclectic ensemble of music, in which aspects of jazz, classical, folklore, world music and rock are mixed organically, while the fruitful fantasy of these stellar improvisers also has a touch of humor. Ratko is an innovative musician who is widely recognized as a technically advanced guitarist. He is known as a tireless individualist, which is reflected in his improvisational style. Ratko has a prolific and extensive history of recording sessions as a guitarist who has played on many released recordings. He is a very versatile player who devotes himself to many areas of music, but he is best known for his work in modern jazz and improvisational idioms. Simone is one of the most interesting and innovative accordionists on the international stage, researching contemporary music, acoustics and electronics, sound experiments and cultivated contamination, without forgetting tradition, resulting in a very personal approach to improvisation. The album Midnight in Europe a contains original compositions by both main protagonists.This ensemble, which was created only a few years ago, speaks to the listeners in countless languages, with different colors and tastes, mixed with joy and fantasy!
Musica Jazz, Italy
Vinyl Fan, Germany
This double LP is the big and positive surprise of Records Store Day 2021. A Croat, an Italian, a Macedonian and an American – this is the basis for an extremely exciting musical mixture, which starts with (American) jazz and essentially European style elements such as folklore, world music, and even rock. A factor that I cannot ignore is the Mediterranean flair that defines this music.
I cannot answer whether it is because these concert recordings were made in the Milestone Jazz Club Piacenza and in La Cantina Bentivoglio for the Bologna Jazz Festival in Italy. The romantic to wistful and yet so light as a feather pieces, characterized by the accordion of Zanchini and the guitar of Ratko Zjaca, are juxtaposed with fast-paced and lively compositions. There are complicated tempo changes as well as relaxed, beautiful melodies to melt away. The resulting areas of tension and musical surprises are among the really brilliant moments of this double LP.
The perfect, analog mastering, together with the chic fold-out cover and the liner notes, rounded off a first-class publication – my top recommendation!
ZZ Quartet is much more than guitar and accordeon.
You have to wait until the second part of the CD ‘Midnight in Europe’ to hear the guitar sound of Ratko Zjaca. But then there is also a business card attached to it: one that mentions fantasy, strength, purity and excitement. And that leaves room for the other three band members of the ZZ Quartet, because they are more than worth listening to.
An accordeon claims a prominent place in every combination in which it appears. It is no different with the ZZ Quartet. The instrument, which can cry like no other, can evoke emotions and false emotions, is therefore vulnerable at the same time. Because why should you be at the forefront if you can only express emotions and not tell a story? That is not the case with Simone Zanchini: he captivates from the first to the very last note.
The ZZ Quartet is of the adventurous kind. Guitar and accordeon may often set the tone, but they don’t do it in a stifling way. Midnight in Europe is therefore an intriguing album that invites you to listen again and again. To discover again and again that this music is inexhaustible.
Overall this is an excellent album, full of great music and exciting performances, with a unique sound and atmosphere, which consolidates Jazz with many European cultural elements, mostly of Mediterranean origin. A delightful listening experience!
Beyond The Lines
By George W. Harris
Here’s a combo worth your attention. Ratko Zjaca plays guitar and Simone Zanchini hits the buttons on the accordion and electronics. Supplemented by Martin Gjakonovski/b and Adam Nussbaum, the mix Cajun, Zydeco, Tango and Bohemian blues in a way that grabs you by the throat. Deep south sound come out on the sinister “Celtico” while slinky blues hit you in your soul on “River Spirit” and “Days of Old”. They can bop with the best as well, showing some hot grooves on “The Judge Says You are Innocent” and “The Lost Call” while taking you to The Left Bank on “bale Con La Uno”. Funk is the name on “The Clockwork” which features wondrous guitar work and Zanchini hits all the right buttons on “The Easy Whistler”. The only label for this one is “Oh, Yeah!”.
Midwest Records, May 2014, USA
The Euro jazzbos return for their third set under this name and bring a Euro chip on their shoulders as well. They don’t want to go forward just being thought of a jazz in the American sense — they want to be seen as musical adventurers that add stuff from everywhere. Mash up is the future, huh? You can hear jazz, tango, Django and more — all of it right on sounds. Loose the chip on your shoulder. Forget about marketing, focus on the music. That’s what you do best. Rhetoric aside, this is a delightful wild ride from cats that want to admirably push the limits and they are at their most hypnotic when their vision of fusion is to fuse the past with the future. Not really malcontent jazz, this is a nu sort of world fusion that has some really cool things going. Well worth checking out if you appreciate softer jazz/rock that has some real edges. This could easily become one of your left field faves.
All About Jazz, January 2014, USA – by Dan Bilawski
ZZ Quartet: Beyond the Lines Croatian guitarist Ratko Zjaca and Italian accordionist Simone Zanchini hit artistic pay dirt when they teamed up for The Way We Talk (In + Out Records, 2010). They joined forces with Macedonian bassist Martin Gjakonovski and American drummer Adam Nussbaum for that album, creating a cross-cultural blend of music that speaks to specific musical idiosyncracies and universal truths in sound. Now, a few years after that initial encounter-on-record, this outfit returns with a follow-up that’s just as pleasing and unique as its debut.
On Beyond The Lines, this foursome delivers music that’s alternately breezy, brainy, brash or bold. They create beautiful aural tapestries (“Bale Con La Uno” and “Days Of Old”), use simple, evolving riffs and overlapping ostinatos as a leaping off point for something greater (“The Clockwork”), and delight in delivering a zany, left-of-center hoedown (“Celtico”). Understatement also has its place in the program (“River Spirit”), as does full-steam-ahead interplay (“The Judge Says You Are Innocent”) and tuneful cheeriness (“The Easy Whistler”). These men truly manage to cover a lot of ground as they move beyond the lines and wherever else they please.
Some of these pieces use textural elements as structural cornerstones while others tend to be built on and around rhythmic foundations, but all of the music speaks to the creative spirit of its makers. Zanchini seems to have the greatest range of all the men at play, serving as instigator one minute and creating sonic sedatives the next, but Zjaca is the solo voice of note. His solo spots simultaneously display deep thought and highlight an off-the-cuff creative streak that’s ever-visible. Nussbaum and Gjakonovski prove to be an organic pair that’s willing and able to do whatever the music demands, be it moving forward, receding into the shadows, or playing things straight.
In ZZ Quartet, differences and likenesses both prove to be assets. These four men wear their individuality and togetherness like a badge of honor on Beyond The Lines.
Jazzthetik, January 2014, Germany
By Mark Corroto, December 2013
The answer to the question: what does one do with an accordion?, is not beat it with a club until it is silenced. At least that is not the case when the accordion is utilized in the context of a jazz quartet like this ZZ Quartet. The ‘Z’ stands for Croatian guitarist Ratko Zjaca and Italian accordionist Simone Zanchini. Their quartet is rounded out by the Macedonian bassist Martin Gjakonovski and American drummer Adam Nussbaum. Beyond the Lines follows The Way We Talk (In And Out Records, 2010) and, while eschewing the traditional (or avant) aspects of the accordion, makes some innovative and what is more important, some swinging jazz.
Their music is difficult to pigeonhole. They draw from modern jazz, Italian film, and folk music as influences. The disc opens with the weighty bass line of “Voglio Una Donna” that unwraps into a complex and destabilizing sound. The band can hit hard and switch gears instantly (“Freak in Freak Out”), deliver a whistling pop song (“The Easy Whistler”) with actual whistling, and negotiate the coolness of a lush blues (“River Spirit”) all by meshing the ying/yang of Zjaca’s guitar and Zanchini’s accordion. The music is engaging and instantly agreeable.
In + Out Records
Purists may relax: The ZZ Quartet has hardly anything to do with the Texan Blues rock band ZZ Top. Instead, the band‘s forceful initials originate from the surnames of the initiators Ratko Zjaca (guitar) and Simone Zanchini (accordion). After the sensational 2010 début album The Way We Talk (In + Out Records) they have returned to the studio once again, together with Martin Gjakonovski (bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums), to write another chapter in the history of cross-border jazz. But – jazz?
“By now, this term in its classic American meaning is no longer sufficient,” muses Simone Zanchini. “What we do clearly has European roots, many classical influences, folklore, avant-garde, improvisation, sometimes fusion too. You‘ll only find something akin to swing in one piece at the most, but yet a distinct rhythm pervades the entire album”. And Ratko Zjaca believes he discerns an element of rock and pop music in the ZZ Quartet‘s compact, self-contained, highly exciting sound, which sometimes goes against the grain.
“We function as a band first and foremost; we have got to know and appreciate each other these last four years. It may be customary in jazz to play with new people again and again, to take on the unexpected, to act out one‘s individuality. We, on the other hand, draw predominantly on our mutual trust. Not for nothing were legendary bands such as Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and Weather Report able to develop their concept continuously over a long period of time”.
A small hint of ZZ Top after all, then, albeit in the philosophical sense. “We never wanted to make an album that was just purely jazz,” says Ratko Zjaca, explaining the motive of the ZZ Quartet which, on The Way We Talk still bears his name in classic jazz fashion. “The preferences and the musical socializations of the four of us are too different for that. None of us wants to be confined or enslaved to a particular style any more”. Zjaca, the guitarist, is from Croatia but has made the Netherlands his home for more than 20 years. Zanchini, the accordion player, is from Italy, Martin Gjakonovski, the bass player, is from Macedonia, but has been living in Bergisch Gladbach, near Cologne, for 23 years. And Adam Nussbaum, the authority on drums, is from New York. An international task force of esthetic possibilities is searching for the truth beyond the generally accepted lines of demarcation. Beyond The Lines. Which lines? “In effect this is about every line,” says Ratko. “Everything we hear goes into what we do. The passion for film music as well as the secret love of rock, the admiration of classical music, the longing for folk and, of course, the burning desire for jazz and its possibilities for improvisation.”
Hence, they play no standards. Nine of the eleven tracks, which all have it in them to become new standards, were penned by Ratko Zjaca and Simone Zanchini and one each by Adam Nussbaum and his daughter Maja (“Days Of Old”) and by Martin Gjakonovski (“The South Song”). A different concept, a foreign path, which nevertheless leads into familiar areas. The change is most clearly noticeable in “The Clockwork” by Zanchini. “We have developed further”, the accordion wizard emphasizes. “This begins with our compositions and becomes most obvious when we play together. We move much further away from guidelines than we used to and have become more mature, more grown-up. Everything is balanced, even if Ratko and I have written most of the tracks”.
ZZ are both from the same corner of Europe, but could not be much greater opposites as far as their nature is concerned. Together with the two other guys and their respective backgrounds, this adds up to an unbelievable mixture, a wonderfully tasty cake, for which the recipe and especially the chemistry are really good. For example, Adam Nussbaum, who in his long life as a drummer has already set the beat for John Abercrombie, Paul Bley, Michael Brecker, Tom Harrell, Lee Konitz, David Liebman, John Scofield, and also the Allman Brothers Band and Jaco Pastorius, calls the ZZ Quartet “one of the craziest bands I have played with in the last 30 years”. Still in doubt? Just give it a go and leave your (listening) habits behind.
By Dan McClenaghan, August 2013
The group is called the ZZ Quartet, and no, it is not an expansion of the famed blues rock trio from Texas, ZZ Top. Beyond the Lines is the brainchild of the leaders – the Zs of the ZZ Quartet – accordion master Simone Zanchini and guitarist Ratko Zjaca. And their music isn’t rock, though elements of the genre surface, in Zjaca’s oft-imes snappy guitar licks, or when Zanchini addresses the “ah-look-at-all-the-lonely-people” bit of The Beatles’ melody on the tranquil “River Spirit.”
Anytime time an accordion sits up front the tag “folk music” comes to mind, but as the disc’s title suggests, this music pushes out beyond the lines of labels, with spirited improvisations riding hard driving rhythms (“Freak in Freak Out”), modernistic stealth grooves (“The Clockwork”), a graceful and gorgeous romantic slow dance (“Bale Con La Uno”), and a playful romp (“The Judge Says You Are Innocent”).
The quartet’s sound draws its influences from its international cast: Guitarist Zjaca hails from Croatia; accordionist Zanchini is from Italy; drummer Adam Nussbaum brings a New York state of mind to the music; and bassist Martin Gjakonovski is from Macedonia. Given that make-up, a European tinge is evident. Ten of the set’s eleven tunes are penned by either Zjaca or Zanchini – “The Lost Call” was written by Zjaca, while a swaying, lighthearted “The Easy Listener” comes from Zanchini’s fertile imagination.
Beyond the Lines, by the ZZ Quartet, defies categorization on this very engaging outing.
The Way We Talk
Jazzpodium (German), June 2011
Gitarre und Bass (German), March 2011
Muziekwereld (Dutch), March 2011
By Nicholas F. Mondello, USA, February 2011
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 initially 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 Gjakonovski’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.
All About Jazz (Italian), February 2011 – di Fabio Strada
The Way We Talk – “Il nostro modo di parlare” – è l’emblematico titolo del CD d’esordio di questo quartetto che fa della molteplicità di radici, geografiche e musicali, la propria peculiarità e ricchezza. Capitanato dal chitarrista Ratko Zjaca, croato stanziato a Rotterdam, e dal fisarmonicista Simone Zanchini, il quartetto è completato alla ritmica dalla batteria del newyorkese Adam Nussbaum e dal contrabbasso di Martin Gjakonovski, macedone trasferitosi in Germania.
Le disparate provenienze geografiche dei quattro fanno da pendant all’ampiezza del loro background musicale: Ratko Zjaca, oltre alla chitarra jazz, ha fatto studi di musica classica indiana; Zanchini è diplomato in fisarmonica classica (strumento del quale è uno dei principali interpreti a livello internazionale), fa parte dell’Ensemble strumentale scaligero ed è attivo in una molteplicità di contesti, dal jazz all’improvvisazione radicale, dalla sperimentazione elettronica alla musica colta e al tango.
Ma il jazz è indiscutibilmente il linguaggio comune e l’amore che lega fra loro i quattro musicisti coi loro disparati percorsi. Al di là dello status di vera e propria icona del jazz moderno di Nussbaum, che ha suonato con gli eroi del genere, da Sonny Rollins a Stan Getz ad Art Pepper, tutti e quattro vantano un curriculum jazz di prim’ordine. Non sorprende quindi che nonostante la sua recente costituzione il quartetto abbia subito raggiunto un alto livello di affiatamento e un suono compatto e omogeneo.
Ma ciò che più colpisce nel suono di questo disco è il feeling e il calore che emana dalle sue tracce: i temi (tutti di Zjaca e Zanchini) sono elaborati, eleganti e, pur nella loro varietà, possiedono uno squisito gusto melodico. I solisti (ruolo ad appannaggio soprattutto dei due leader, ma non mancano interventi di Gjakonovski e Nussbaum) sono sempre focalizzati e ispirati; tanto Zjaca quanto Zanchini possiedono un fraseggio caldo, ricco e fluente. La ritmica procede fluida e senza inciampi con uno swing contagioso.
Le direzioni percorse nei diversi brani sono molteplici e si spingono fino ai territori della libera improvvisazione collettiva (“Morgagni Est”, “Kandinsky Night”), ma il suono di gruppo decolla soprattutto nei brani più swinganti e groovy, dove il feeling diventa davvero contagioso e irresistibile.
Un altro piatto forte sono le ballad (“Frida Is Vanished,” “A Friend for Life”), ispirate e cariche di feeling, in cui la fisarmonica di Zanchini mescola in una sintesi perfetta il linguaggio jazzistico con gli echi piazzolliani; fino ad arrivare al duo di “The Forest of Love,” con sola chitarra acustica e fisarmonica, una vera gemma d’ispirazione, bellezza e pathos.
Le composizioni di Zjaca (“Twilight Time Again”, “Out of Body”, “A Friend for Life”) hanno soprattutto nella ricchezza melodica e nel calore del feeling i loro maggiori punti di forza. Il suono della chitarra è caldo e classico, ispirato chiaramente alla lezione dei maestri (da Jim Hall a Wes Montgomery fino a John Scofield); il fraseggio è raffinato e maturo e gli interventi solistici non perdono mai di vista il faro della bellezza e della pertinenza con lo spirito del tema.
I brani di Zanchini, pur mantenendo sempre un nucleo di ispirazione e gusto melodico (“Frida Is Vanished”), virano di più verso l’esuberanza gioiosa (“Pippo,” “Adam And Eva”) o deviano verso traiettorie più oblique e spigolose (“La stanza di Arturo”).
Anche come solista Zanchini ama “sporcare” la sua forte e calda vena melodica con intemperanze e repentine deviazioni e perturbazioni (“A Friend for Life”), ritagliandosi nell’intro di “Morgagni Est” uno spazio d’improvvisazione in cui dà sfogo agli imbizzarrimenti tipici del suo stile in solo. A livello timbrico, Zanchini porta con sé quanto raccolto dalle sperimentazioni elettroniche degli ultimi anni con un uso moderato di effetti applicati alla fisarmonica in parte dei brani.
La classe e la qualità di questo CD, pur non essendo una sorpresa (essendo già nota e ampiamente dimostrata la statura dei quattro musicisti), rappresenta però un solido punto di partenza per un quartetto che ha intenzione di non essere una fugace meteora ma una realtà duratura del panorama jazzistico internazionale.
All About Jazz, January 2011 – by Karl Ackermann
Little more than a year ago, the great Croation guitarist, Ratko Zjaca, released the terrific Continental Talk (In + Out Records 2009) with his longtime collaborator, saxophonist, Stanislav Mitrovic, and some all-star American support. Not content to follow even a highly successful formula, Zjaca has teamed with Italian accordionist Simone Zanchini, Macedonian bassist Martin Gjakonovski and American drummer Adam Nussbaum for The Way We Talk. Zjaca’s new—but still global—quartet represents a change, not only in group structure, but in its break with traditional instrumentation. Individually, Zjaca and Zanchini contribute original compositions to this surprisingly adventurous outing; as co-leaders, their distinct approaches find common ground and unique harmonies across a range of jazz styles.
The accordion’s appearance in American jazz dates back to Bennie Moten’s Orchestra in the ’40s but it has hardly been a mainstay over the years, given its inexact musical nature. More recently, Guy Klucevsek brought the accordion to avant-garde places, with John Zorn and others. Zanchini’s techniques are expansive, and throughout The Way We Talk, he encompasses styles from free jazz to ballads with a few tastefully arranged electronics to enhance the effect. From the opening “Pippo,” Zanchini dispels any preconceptions that the accordion is only for polka. He rapidly fires off articulate notes that give way to Zjaca’s decidedly improvised lead, and then a brief solo from Nussbaum. “Twilight Time Again” slows to mid-tempo and a more melodic line. Here, the synergy between Zjaca and Zanchini gels as they play off each other with the dexterity of a long-established frontline.
“La Stanza Di Arturo” is a unique combination of mainstream swing and inventive rhythms. Nussbaum’s driving beat propels the piece at breakneck speed, while Zjaca and Zanchini trade some sizzling leads. Dedicated to Miroslav Vitous, “Kandinsky Night” is dominated by a free jazz sensation, with some electronics augmenting the piece, but it is “Morgagni Est” that comes as close to the fringe as the accordion can go. Lest it become too easy to get caught up in the novel aspects of this collection, there is Zjaca’s superb guitar work on pieces like “Frida Is Vanished,” where his lucid and bluesy expressions substantiate his solid reputation as one of Eastern Europe’s finest musicians and composers. Whether on the somewhat funky “Out Of Body,” or the plaintive “A Friend For Life,” Zjaca plays with great emotion and technique.
While both Gjakonovski and Nussbaum are positioned lower in the mix, they keep a nuanced control over each piece, letting the tension build on the faster numbers while never precluding the possibility that something might explode. On Zjaca’s beautiful ballad, “A Forest Of Love,” the co-leaders perform as a duo, with Zanchini recalling the great bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi, and Zjaca’s personal but open melodic monologue. Zjaca and Zanchini have created something very different in The Way We Talk. The temptation to resort to clichés, when incorporating an outlier such as the accordion is great. These two master musicians are never overly reserved or exaggerated on this fine collection.
All About Jazz, December 2010 – by Dan Bilawsky
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.
Italian review, November 2010
Il gruppo capeggiato dal chitarrista Ratko Zjaca e dal fisarmonicista Simone Zanchini rappresenta una inusuale fusione di culture e influenze musicale diverse. Anche la provenienza geografica dei quattro componenti rispecchia questo eclettismo: Croazia (Ratko Zjaca), Italia (Simone Zanchini), Macedonia (il bassista Martin Gjakonovski), Stati Uniti (il batterista Adam Nussbaum). Negli undici brani originali (tutti portano la firma di Zjaca e Zanchini) che animano questo disco dal titolo evocativo “The Way We Talk” si intrecciano linguaggi e approcci talvolta divergenti, ma che trovano un’inaspettata fusione. Da un lato un chitarrista fortemente legata all’estetica del jazz contemporaneo (Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, John Abercrombie), dall’altra un virtuoso fisarmonicista con le radici nel folklore e nella musica classica. «La cosa affascinante di questa produzione è che la musica segue direzioni diverse e tutti abbiamo la sensazione di scoprire sempre nuovi elementi» spiega Zjaca «Sono molto felice che questo album sia stato realizzato, perché credo che abbiamo qualcosa di speciale da dire e, nel fare questo, abbiamo un suono autentico e innovativo».
Italian review, November 2010
In + Out Records, September 2010
They talk to each other – and also to their audience. It’s a very special vocabulary, a new form of multilingual communication in which European music culture and the history of swinging America are linked. A mixture of past and present, of classical music and improvisation, of folklore and innovation. If you check out the line-up of Ratko Zjaca’s and Simone Zanchini’s quartet, you will immediately notice how borders blur. Guitarist Zjaca stems from Croatia, accordionist Zanchini is Italian, Martin Gjakonovski, the bass player, is from Macedonia (although he now lives in Bergisch Gladbach, near Cologne) and drummer Adam Nussbaum is from the USA. A “task force” of aesthetic options that embraces different races and continents. For Ratko Zjaca this is also a philosophy of life. It is the aim of this guitar wizard, the creator of this project, to bring together opposites and broaden horizons.
Four years ago he met Simone Zanchini and Adam Nussbaum for the first time at a jazz workshop in Slovenia. “Teachers gave concerts there and they also had jam sessions,” Zjaca recalls. “We played together and created sounds that were really interesting and exciting.” A tour followed in 2009, then the four of them went into the Klangstudio Leyh, IN+OUT Records’ preferred recording studio, and recorded eleven original compositions by Zjaca and Zanchini. “The fascinating thing about this production is that the music follows different directions and we all feel that we are discovering new elements all the time,” says Ratko Zjaca. “I’m very happy that this album came into being, because I believe we have something special to say and, in doing this, we have an authentic and fresh sound.” First and foremost, the band leaders form a diametrical unity. On the one hand there is the guitar player, grounded in contemporary jazz – Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Mick Goodrick, Mike Stern, Bob Brookmeyer and John Abercrombie all left their marks on his playing. On the other hand we have an accordion virtuoso with roots in folklore and also in classical and New Music. Both of them inspire each other in a synergetic way, mutually absorb their influences and demonstrate their European gene code. “It definitely is a jazz album”, says Simone Zanchini. “but it is certainly not classic mainstream jazz. The word ‘jazz’ embraces such a tremendous range of music that the repertoire in the year 2010 cannot be the same as it was in 1940. The points of reference remain, of course, creativity and improvisation.” There is a photograph that shows Simone Zanchini with an accordion at the age of two. He says, “The instrument was always connected with our family. I always wanted to be a musician, not only an accordionist.” He named accordion pioneer Art van Damme, who passed away earlier this year, as “my guru”, colleague Frank Marocco as “a model” and pianist Keith Jarrett as “my inspiration”. What links Simone Zanchini and Ratko Zjaca together apart from their joint love of acoustic adventures, is their fondness for movies, in particular the cinematic masterpieces of Federico Fellini. In an interview they each described sections of their début album as “Fellini-esque”. In this sense you could say that, with their ingenious hotchpotch, the quartet created “Fellini jazz”.