Eight Shades of Beautiful
Several things keep Nenad Vasilic's discography consistent. First, just as he planned at the beginning of his career, he still hasn't recorded "a single American song". Second, on every group recording, he collaborated with a different lineup of musicians, changing the instruments in the ensemble, as well.Third, in the studio or live, his releases are always a feast for the ears, meeting the strictest audiophile criteria - giving you the impression that the musicians are in front of, or, more precisely, around you in the room as you listen to the album. However, one thing is more important: all albums by Vasilic are consistently beautiful.
The latest concert release by Vasilic represents the artist's comeback to the legendary Austrian ORF national radio studio, where he recorded his first live album Joe Jack is Back, in 2004, as the first foreign musician to get such privilege. At that time, he mostly performed folk songs from his background, carefully honing his handwriting with the Balkan traditional jewels. Today, Vasilic's repertoire consists mainly of his and his long-time partner Marko Zivadinovic's original compositions, and Nenad Vasilic Trio LIVE is entirely their creation. These impressive melodies have the traits of new standards, and soon, other artists will start making renditions.
Vasilic, Zivadinovic and soprano saxophonist Romed Hopfgartner, three musicians from the ORF concert, comprise Vasilic's most common band in recent years. This natural choice presents an identifying mark of this moment in the artist's career, an invitation to a future concert or the best souvenir you can take home. Besides five pieces from Vienna, the album also includes three songs from the performance at the National Theater in Niš, Nenad's hometown, where Ukrainian Andrej Prozorov played the saxophone instead of Hopfgartner.
"C'est la Vie" is a logical choice for the opening, underlining the first collaboration of these musicians (then with a drummer in the band) on the album Just Fly, the first recording of this composition. It is the most melancholic song in the program, which, coupled with the cheerful repetition of the "Balkanesque" theme in the final moments, rounds up the vast range of the two trios - and on a micro-level too, within individual pieces.
Three "older" songs from the Vienna performance describe the dynamic and arrangement diversity of Vasilic's concept well. In "C'est la Vie", the accordion spurs soft emotions followed by the double bass solo and, especially, the fluid soprano saxophone stirring it up. In "Awakening" (first performed on the album Seven), we witness an intense duel between Hopfgartner and Živadinovic over a percussive, playful slap by Vasilic. "Balkanesque" drifted farthest away from the original (albums Wet Paint and Live At Theater Akzent), bringing in the midsection psychedelic aquarelle instead of the Latin mania drumming by Jarod Cagwin.
The Niš concert took place during the promotion of the Wet Paint album, featuring for the first time "Seven Blues" and "New Bass Song", a new beautiful pair of different ambiences and approaches. The first one is fast, charged with the tension of Nenad's bass-hopper and Marko's chords before Andrej Prozorov fires up, followed by Zivadinovic, resulting in a dynamic duel. The second one is a gentle, slow tempo: the first lyrical part of the melody plays Vasilic alone, the second part brings the unison of the bass and saxophone. Next come romantic accordion and saxophone sections, an effective exchange of all three, a solo bass in the finish, nicely evoking the "Balkanesque" theme.
Nenad Vasilic introduces one new composition. The song "San Francisco Dance" sounds like an exotic Balkan chochek fantasy on the Golden Gate Bridge: as if a brass band from the Serbian South started from one end, and Latino percussionists (Nenad's fingers on the double bass) on the other, meeting halfway to dance to Hopfgartner's most passionate and frenetic solo on the album.
Ever since "No Problem Song" rounded out so masterfully the album Seven, we've been hoping for a further flourishing of Marko Zivadinovic's creative imagination. This album brings not one, but two new gems: "Rumunska" is truly a Vlach piece (unison of accordion and saxophone), but in the middle section, Nenad fluidly sways it to swing, challenging both Romed and Marko to change the course of the ship, before returning it to the Danube golden waves. "Ljubavna" is even more impressive: although it's not very comfortable to see such a suggestive title (Ljubavna/Love Song), I couldn't think of a better one for this song! It sounds like the sister of Živadinovic's first "hit", again two-beat and again masterfully slowed down, but with a touch of musette romance in Marko's improvisation, adding to it the Richard Gallianoesque flavour of Parisian sidewalks.
Melancholic, dynamic, lyric, fluidic, percussionistic, frenetic, romantic, aquarellistic: eight shades of beautiful spread over yet another album that Nenad Vasilic and his friends can be proud of. Beautiful listening!