Wednesday 6 May 2020

'Ascension' by Sanja Markovic

From the opening few seconds of Sanja Markovic's 'Ascension', it's made very clear, very quickly, that you're listening to something immeasurably special...

The debut album from the incredibly talented Markovic sees her adopt the role of vocalist, producer, writer and saxophonist for the album offering up a full display of her talents.  Born in Serbia, Markovic's quest has taken her to the US where she taught in schools and composed music, she later formed and was a part of bands including Brazilian Jazz Collective and Secondhanders; a skilled vocalist, saxophonist and guitarist, a frequent performer... these are only accolades that skim the surface of this indelibly talented artist with all roads now leading to the wonderful A.MA Records.

For the team at Italy's A.MA Records, their collection of world class talent increases as the years pass - a point proved by recent projects from guitarist Andrea Gomellini ('The Gift') and saxophonist Gianluca Vigliar ('Plastic Estrogenus') who have rightly had their stunning pieces of work warmly received by critics and fans alike.  With A.MA now playing host to 'Ascension', they may very well have released an album that sits proudly amongst some of their own greatest releases.

Musically, this album is an absolute joy.  Through varied and dynamic compositions, Markovic and the extensive array of musicians enlisted throughout seem to take great pleasure in taking listeners on a journey, but skilfully changing route with little forewarning.  The album's title track acts as a perfect example - with its almost trip-hop-esque inspired production, spoken word quotes from Walt Whitman's 'Leaves of Grass' employed throughout, some excellent saxophone work from Max Kocetov and an exquisite introduction to Markovic's vocal - it all just adds up to musical bliss.  And then to compare that with the album's closing number, 'Sun', again, showcasing a fantastic vocal but this time decorated with the beautiful surroundings of a more orchestral backdrop which delivers as the perfect and sublime finale.  Of the album's seven tracks, there isn't a wasted moment - the music is brimming with excitement and a tantalizing energy that begs repeated listens.

The album title itself - 'Ascension' - fits like a glove for Markovic and all of her efforts leading up to this.  Through her years of travel, tireless musical contributions as an educator and collaborator amidst the various groups already mentioned, this album is Markovic's literal ascension to her rightful place as a respected and revered musical luminary in her own right.  And it's a position that is perhaps overdue, if not perfectly timed - if all those years were building up to the magic of this release then it was absolutely worth it.

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