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(72:34, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Nocturnal Joy 11:21 2. Zulu 10:23 3. Odlazim 7:45 4. Dolazim 9:51 5. Tovirafro 5:13 6. Razbolje Se Simsir List 6:35 7. Uaiya 8:57 8. Otkrice Snova 12:31 LINEUP: Vasil Hadzimanov – keyboards David Binney – saxophone Branko Trijic – guitars Miroslav Tovirac – bass Peda Milutinovic – drums Bojan Ivkovic – percussion; vocals
Prolusion. The Serbian combo Vasil Hadzimanov Band has been an ongoing live and recording project for the better part of 15 years, presumably with composer and keyboardist Hadzimanov as the band leader. They have a solid reputation in their own country, and have also performed abroad with a fair degree of success. "Alive" is the sixth album by the band, and the first of their albums to be released through the US label Moonjune Records.
Analysis. From what I understand, Vasil Hadzimanov Band is one of those bands that are interesting and alluring as a recording band, but whose strengths are first and foremost documented on their live performances. In that context, it is fitting that a live album will be their possible gateway into a possibly more progressive rock oriented audience, as Moonjune Records is a label that does reach beyond a strict progressive rock or jazz audience as such, even if they are arguably best known for releasing material exploring the more jazz-oriented parts of the progressive rock universe. On this occasion, the CD opens with an elongated, open and inviting composition where saxophone and keyboards are both given prominent positions in the landscapes explored, a creation that, to my ears, comes across as just about a perfect companion piece to Jan Garbarek's two-part composition ’Twelve Moons’ from the early ’90s. Guest saxophonist David Binney's style and delivery, at least to my ears, are a central part of this association forming, something which is a recurring element in most cases, where he gets to showcase his instrument, although I guess those with a more in depth knowledge about jazz may object to that description. Jazz is a key word to describe the rest of the album as well. Plucked guitars, gliding guitar textures and even occasional riffs have their place here, but by and large this material comes across as more of a jazz production than anything else, with only occasional dips into what I'd describe as jazz rock. Again a description based on a subjective point of view, but whether one might place this production into either category, there's no denying that jazz is the dominant style explored here, while other style details have more of a supporting function. When that is said, funk-tinged guitar details and especially funk-driven bass lines are distinct and recurring features throughout, even if not always up front and dominant. Just about all of the songs ebb and flow rather nicely throughout, be it that they operate out from a full ensemble foundation and then transitions to one or more solo dominated sequences, or when they explore a set central theme and then improvise around one or more elements from it prior to returning to base and commencing a new excursion, or if they alternate between several solo passages, gradually building them from a delicate opening to peak intensity and then repeating this in cycles. The material stays open and inviting by and large, the main exceptions being the more searching, free-form piece Odlazim and the mainly piano dominated piece Razbolje Se Simsir List.
Conclusion. Those fond of tight live performances by a highly skilled band that explores a more distinctly jazz-dominated breed of jazz rock should find this live album by Vasil Hadzimanov band to be well worth investigating. A taste for funk-oriented details will most likely be needed, and a certain affection for a saxophonist that has at least some similarities to the more open and inviting side of a musician like Jan Garbarek will probably be helpful as well.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: Agst 15, 2016
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