Thursday 9 May 2024

'Octave Up' by Shljuka Quintet

Embracing the opportunity to revive his Shljuka moniker, pianist Aleksandar Jovanovic releases his new album 'Octave Up' also marking his first for new label home in Italy's A.MA Records.

Jovanovic has long had his roots firmly embedded within Serbia's thriving jazz scene.  A seasoned recording artist, collaborator and performer, Jovanovic brings a wealth of experience to the table, along with a passion to pay due respects to Serbia's jazz lineage. 

While certainly one to wave the flag for Serbia's past luminaries, being an artist in his position, Jovanovic fully understands the responsibility to do so while still finding ways to push himself, the genre and those around him forward. 

Having secured his first prominent position within the Alegorian Jazz band in 1999, Jovanovic's career has been littered with an extensive list of ensembles ranging from his first trio as part of the Woodcock Group in 2009 to the Serbian Jazz BRE! project, Coolares and Napeti Quintet amongst others.  Jovanovic's Shlujka moniker was initially introduced back in 2017 through the album 'Iluzija' (Lampshade Media) - a project that demonstrated a new dimension to the pianist's music allowing his vocals to come to the forefront.  With the multitude of projects Jovanovic seems to continually cultivate, a different level of expectation must surely come with revisiting Shlujka seven years later.

The 2024 iteration of the quintet sees Jovanovic's piano paired with trumpeter and fellow A.MA recording artist Ivan Radivojevic (see his excellent 'In Plain View' album release from 2022), saxophonist Rastko Obradovic, bassist Milan Pavkovic and drummer Aleksandar Cvetkovic.  With Cvetkovic the only returning member from the inaugural Shljuka project, the other notable change here is that Jovanovic opts not to present his vocal as a focal point for 'Octave Up'; while 'Iluzija' was able to boast a distinct charm and personality with the multi-faceted artist now tackling the role of lead vocalist, 'Octave Up' instead offers listeners the opportunity to reconnect with the unbridled parts of Jovanovic's performance that brought him to global stages.

As a pianist, Aleksandar has little else to prove - having asserted himself as a dynamic and versatile musician, it's exciting projects like these that afford artists that scope to reconnect with, or even reinvent, themselves.  Jovanovic, as well as each member of the quintet of course, perform beautifully across the album's eight tracks showcasing a selection of exquisite compositions that range from introspective gems to vibrant and rousing pieces.

Aleksandar Jovanovic has always made such an exceptional job at revelling in the varying facets of his own musicality and there's certainly something inherently special about him putting on the "Shlujka" hat.  An inspired introduction to the hallowed walls of A.MA Records.

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