One of the best serbian (not only jazz) albums in 2010.
The latest domestic fusion attraction comes from Nis and is called Eyot. This style description should be taken loosely, with regard to its influence, such as Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra or Weather Report, or literally, if we speak about the music itself – which is in fact a fusion of various genres, based on jazz and improvisation. Their expression heads toward modern eclecticism, yet it does not lose touch with the essence of the genre it originates from.
The quartet of Niš consists of the band leader, pianist Dejan Ilijić, bassist Marko Stojiljković, guitar player Slađan Milenović and the drummer Miloš Vojvodić. Let’s go through a concise chronological rise of Eyot: they made a first prominent appearance last summer at Umbria Jazz – Balkanic Windows qualification. The same year they performed at Nisville Festival; “It’s Time To Go Home”, the composition for which the video had been made there, travelled around the globe via the most famous jazz website AllAboutJazz. Jazz festival in Dubai “World of Jazz” followed, then concerts all over Serbia.
After a notable performance in Belgrade, the bandleader Dejan Ilijić was approached by a fan who yelled “You, Esbjörn Svensson!“. The reference to a tragically deceased Swedish pianist, who left his mark on a new millennium jazz scene, is due to Ilijic’s playing lyricism, charged with modern rhythm and pop-rock sound.
Very sophisticated and melodic piano sections are the hallmark and the biggest quality of Eyot. Ilijic’s solo playing is particularly convincing – it is fluid, nonchalantly scattered around tact units, creating thus a perfect counterpoint with the rest of the band who in charge of the sound precision in terms of rhythm. One can hear the sound of minor scales, influenced by the ECM tradition, as well as gracious classical passages, appropriate ethno aroma and a stroll through the history of jazz piano (just listen to a sweeping solo of the last composition It’s Time To Go Home).
The sound of Milenovic’s Ibanez guitar may be attractive to hard/rock and metal lovers, so it ensures broadness and potential to draw various audiences. However, ilijic’s elegant performance is not overwhelmed by a macho guitar distortion, thus this sound is heard only a few times. The rest of the album features a carefully applied sound permeated with effects- bearing resemblance to Terje Rypdal’s “muffled” playing.
When it comes to composition, the band sticks to a subtle expression in which tension grading plays the major role. Somewhere, it’s neo-fusion – elsewhere it’s odd rhythm and east European exotic, resulting in pianist solos or loud playing of the whole band. This is exactly the point of possible growth, since the rhythm section is pretty reserved; it just follows the first line. When the drummer Miloš Vojvodic in “3 Months Later” lets off steam, and brass section catches up in free passages (the trombonist Vladan Drobicki and sax player Vasko Bojadžiski of Macedonian band Sethstat), we become aware that Eyot has the potential to take playing to an unexpected level.
Of course, it is on Ilijic and the company to decide on the direction of growth. It’s on us to enjoy a mature instrumental playing and one of the best domestic (not only jazz) albums of the 2010. year.
Track Listing: Far Afield; Stone Upon Stone Upon Stone; If I Could Say What I Wanted To Say; All I Want To Say; Surge; 3 Months Later; Horizon; Whale Song; it’s Time To Go Home.
Personnel: Dejan Ilijić – piano; Slađan Milenović – guitar; Marko Stojiljković: bass; Miloš Vojvodić – drums; Vladan Drobicki: trombone (6); Vasko Bojadžiski: tenor saxophone (6).
Original review date: 03. 12. 2010.
Translation: Milena Matejić
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