Macedonian sextet stands side by side with the relevant global production of contemporary jazz
It’s only half-surprising that a jazz band imbued with modernity and an artistic production of substance should hail from Macedonia of all places. But to remember Skopje Jazz Festival marking its 30th anniversary alone is enough. John Lurie, Marc Ribot, Steven Bernstein and all the other key names of the New York dowtown scene played at the festival, while the last year’s jubilee starred Wayne Shorter alongwith Muhal Richard Abrams, Vijay Iyer, Mats Gustafsson etc. And that is not all – the festival has its own label, SJF Records, which wholeheartedly supports the local scene.
Sethstat have been playing and making music under such conditions since the early 90s, have changed their line-ups to finally encompass a sextet. The band was named after Seth, the Egyptian god of darkness, deserts and storms and Amon Ra’s protégé. The current album “Korab” was entitled after the highest mountain peak in Macedonia, but the word itself signifies a small boat, a small means of transport. Track titles suggest the interest in the genesis of the Cosmos, and the inability of Science to explain everything in its own terms”, as Drobicki , the trombone player to this band explained to me in an intriguing correspondence. In short, everything bursts with philosophical pretentiousness.
When the music is concerned, things are pretty much the same – conceptually, some numbers can exist on their own, while others are fully comprehensible only as perceived as parts of a greater whole. You know how it goes – a fairly structured theme followed by another infinite elaboration and a loose, free interaction among the musicians, followed by returning to the enthusiastic discourse, all the way up to the album’s conclusion.
Ambitious as this might sound, one need not fear of its ultimate appeal. Sethstat is, simply put, a band of experienced and trained musicians with a clear creative vision and execution. In order to refrain ourselves from a barrage of panegyric lines, we can make use of the 12-minute introductory track entitled “Celestial Diorama” in which Sethstat skillfully and fluidly incorporate various “micro units”. The brass section gets melodically attached to keyboard lines so as to form a perfect contrapuntal unity of unisons in its finishing lines, all the while allowing for delicate key solos. Although so much takes place here, the music sound relatively simple and potable, and this is a property to aspire to and admire.
Just when the tension elevates itself to a boiling point, it “resolves” in a furious and straight-line “X-Particles vs Y-Neutrinos” in all its jovial 80s downtown vein (Curlew, Doctor Nerve) or that of their European counterparts (X-Legged Sally).The brass barrage charged with free-funk and fusion rhythm section are a winning combination here.
Five more numbers pertaining to the abovementioned models, the most impressive being “ET Intelligence Crossing the Multiverse” a loosely-theme elaboration gradually leading to its free-ecstasy; “Bon Voyage Cassini” summarizes all of their skills in a consecutive manner ( this time from free structure to a highly flammable melody); “Even Horizon” displays a lucid concordance of bop rhythmic section and brass unisons in a kind of freefall.
Although we manage to sporadically identify role models from both sides of theAtlantic, the greatest creative asset of Sethstat is a highly personal, well-designed and well-rounded artistic expression. Their performing confidence is beautifully proportioned to their arrangements and neither side of them prevails. Specific flaws are hard to find, but whether this album should enable a decent regional/continental breakthrough depends on variety of factors and personal preference. ”Korab” stands side by side with the relevant global production of contemporary jazz. My two cents.
Vladan Drobicki – trombone
Vasko Bojadžiski – saxophone
Aleksandar Nikolovski – trumpet
Panče Bujukliev – piano, synthesizer
Pavel Drobicki – bass guitar
Goce Naumov – drums
Gunter Kube – bass clarinet (1, 3)
Translation: Igor Jovanović
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