Thursday 19 May 2022

'Away From You' by Jovan Milovanović

"I have an urge to express myself through music. To tell a story."

It's as endearing an introduction to an artist as there could be...  

And thankfully for the Serbian guitarist and composer, Jovan Milovanović, the opportunity to tell his story arrives with the launch of his long overdue debut album, 'Away From You', released through Shifting Paradigm Records.

The Minneapolis-based label would no doubt have been moved but such an impassioned approach to music-making.  Themselves, champions for "modern jazz, instrumental and improvised music", the label - now in its tenth year - has always sought out innovative and inspired talents to introduce to wider audiences.  Names like Jamie Breiwick, Zacc Harris, Adam Booker and Andrea Scala have each presented stunning projects that helped Shifting Paradigm to ascend to a higher plateau with each outing.

Now the turn of Berklee College of Music graduate Jovan Milovanović who celebrates his own vision for contemporary jazz with 'Away From You' - a fantastic nine track release that conveys elements of his own deeply personal journey while still paying respectful nods to many of his own musical heroes like John Scofield, Chick Corea and Bill Evans.  Serbian guitarist Radomir Mihajlović Točak is also cited as an inspiration which is fitting seeing that Milovanović now finds himself firmly embedded within a wave of artists flying the flag for contemporary Serbian jazz.  Recent releases from flautist Milena Jancuric, vocalist and saxophonist Sanja Markovic, saxophonist Max Kochetov and Majamisty TriO each feature extensive Serbian ensembles and have served as fantastic pieces of music to represent the country's burgeoning scene with Jovan Milovanović's 'Away From You' sitting highly amongst this wave of projects.

The music on 'Away From You' is performed by a quartet comprised of indelibly talented musicians - with Milovanović credited for guitar and compositions, he is joined by saxophonist Kristijan Mlačak, bassist Milan Nikolić and drummer Aleksandar Cvetković who each breathe scintillating life into each track.  The album kicks off with very possibly its own masterstroke with 'Green Dream' - at a little over nine minutes, the track serves as an excellent introduction to the album's overall ambition and scope as it traverses numerous styles and shifts delivering an exquisite performance.

Further album highlights come in the form of the subtle swing of 'Secret Blue', the elegance of 'Away From You' and the infectious buoyancy of 'Daisy People'.  'RMT' as well warrants special mention for its bold and funk-inspired groove.  'Away From You' not only demonstrates Milovanović's skill as a guitarist but also as a producer presenting tracks masterfully composed with buckets of personality.

There's another quote on Milovanović's website that simply reads: "Storytelling. Expression. Emotion."  It's another example of Milovanović understanding the responsibility that goes along with making music that connects with listeners and subsequently builds a devoted audience.  It's taken a long time for Jovan Milovanović to deliver his debut album so this is a project that must come with immeasurable pride - a brilliant piece of work that will hopefully inspire further releases.

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