ZZ Quartet – Beyond The Lines – Inandout Records IORCD 77117-2, 57:18 ***:
(Ratko Zjaca – electric & acoustic guitar; Simone Zanchini – accordion, live electronics; Martin Gjakonovski – acoustic bass; Adam Nussbaum – drums)
There is little likelihood that the ZZ Quartet would be confused with the Texas rock band ZZ Top despite the odd similarity of their names. Certainly after listening to Beyond The Lines any such notion would be easily disabused.
In fact, the bigger question is whether the music can even be categorized as jazz. The band certainly has a jazz musician in American drummer Adam Nussbaum, who has played with the likes of Tom Harrell, Lee Konitz and Paul Bley among others. The other band members have no strong connection to the art form through geography, coming originally from Croatia, Macedonia, and Italy. Although there are jazz essentials in the execution of the music related to improvisation, it is mostly a Euro-stew of classical, folklore and even avant-garde elements.
The compositions are original numbers from the band members and while none of them will linger in anyone’s collective memory, there are some pleasing offerings. Ratko Zjaca’s “River Spirit” has intriguing melody that is open enough to allow for bassist Gjakonovski to show that he has command of his instrument and drummer Nussbaum lays down a solid beat. Accordionist Zanchini penned “Baie Con La Uno” (Dance with the One) and it is a semi-waltz tempo with the composer taking the solo lead. Adam Nussbaum and his daughter Maja did the composing honors on “Days Of Old” with theme that is much in line with the other compositions on this album in that it has a haunting melody but of uncertain provenance. Of the remaining tunes Zanchini’s “The Easy Whistler” swings along at a steady tempo with a catchy melody and some easy soloing from both Zanchini and Zjaca.
With their ethnic roots, the band sticks very close to the landscape of European music but tinged with some jazz inflections.
TrackList: Voglio Una Donna; Celtico; River Spirit; Freak In Freak Out; The Clockwork; Baie Con La Uno; The Judge Says You Are Innocent; Days Of Old; The Lost Call; The South Song; The Easy Whistler