Uros Spasojevic, Bojan Marjanovic – V [AMP records 2018]
Genius loci, literally the ‘ingenious feature belonging to a specific place’, namely a place’s very idiosyncratic capacity to reshape culture in a unique manner. If genius loci applies to music as well as culture, if a specific mark is applied to the music whether the latitude of the world musicians are playing something, then Oslo’s Rainbow studio is one of those places with a genius loci. The legendary studio, which made itself the Olympus mountain of the ECM recordings since when Keith Jarrett was invited there to record his first solo Facing You in 1971, is a place that gives an aura of its own to everything. Senok, the second track in bassist Uros Spasojevic and pianist Bojan Marjanovic duo named V, is a good case in point, being recorded in this legendary place. An older track appearing in a former recording at the bassist’s own name, this started as a slow toe tapping fusion ballad, now transformed with a totally new mood. A stark piano intro played by the bare chords unhides a singing main theme, built around a simple -yet deeply moving- tonal cadence. Marjanovic‘s piano sounds so intimate and shimmering, with just that brush of reverb, typical in so many ECM recordings. Spasojevic doesn’t feel the need to take the center of the stage, if not for adding some spacey soundscapes over the elegant and restrained solo by the pianist, and at the every end to reiterate the main theme. Not only this track, but the overall V exudes a flavor coming from the glorious days of a Norwegian jazz made popular by ECM recordings.
Both Serbian born, Uros Spasojevic and Bojan Marjanovic worked together here for the first time as a duo. The bassist, who wrote all the songs in V, previously recorded four albums at his own name, guesting the likes of keyboardist Scott Kinsey, sax player Bob Reynolds and guitarist Nir Felder. Moving from a very clear contemporary fusion influence, Spasojevic never fell into the trap of just mimicking others’ sound or any exaggerated virtuoso style, but developed a very distinctive sound. With a warm, rounded tone, his bass is often appearing in unexpected melodic places of his music. He often chooses to create a mood with few chords, to cleverly use the volume pedal or knob, and to create intense soundscapes. Expression, his fourth album, is good showcase of the exploration he made in this approach, together with a wide use of looper pedals. In V he leaves space to Bojan Marjanovic, who adds a classically influenced and intimately savior playing to the duo.
Uros Spasojevic makes no mystery for his appreciation of Norwegian master Ketil Bjørnstad. One of the most underrated pianist outside of Norway, capable of gifting the listener with a haunting sense of beauty created in the perfect and unintelligible shell of the simplest melody, he kind of anticipated the acclaimed contemporary neoclassical composers of decades. Guide, which Spasojevic released in his 2016 effort entitled Third View, is a touching theme built around major and minor chords that move in a tonal environment. Yet the bassist founds its way to write an intense melody, which he enriches with a deep solo. With no intention to find room for his self-exposure, Spasojevic brings his technique to a new level of investigation, giving a very distinctive voice to his bass, making it an instrument of solidly singing melodies as well as creating soundscapes or acting on the same registers as the piano.
The title track’s prolonged thematic progression and modulations shows a deep influence by today’s contemporary european jazz. The duo often sounds close to the chamber jazz palette, with a clever balance between european jazz tradition and academic playing. End of the Hill starts with a loose improvisation, until the milky and distant shadows created by Spasojevic utter melodic elements over Marjanovic‘s chords. The dialogue between the two, between effected and analogic sound, is fitting, never resulting in an artificial juxtaposition, always devoted at letting each theme loosely flow.
The theme opening Water, with its unadorned piano chords, calls classic french movies soundtracks to memory, while the long melancholy one in Change, with its minor progression, is closer to essential choices typical of Kjetil Bjørnstad. And, it’s no surprise the last track it’s named after one of the most popular albums by the Norwegian pianist, Sea. Both the first and the initial tracks in V are played by Spasojevic alone. The initial North is a static, reflective meditation around spare chords, while the closing track is built around a toe tapping and intense bass arpeggio, played in loop, on which Spasojevic creates haunting atmospheric noises.
Going to essential, cleansing the music from any excess, from any potential distraction for the listener and slowing down everything as to concentrate on the pure texture inner to each melody, that is the objective Uros Spasojevic and Bojan Marjanovic pursue in their V.
Uros Spasojevic, Bojan Marjanovic – V
Uros Spasojevic – bass
Bojan Marjanovic – piano
7. End of the hill