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In his fourth outing over the course of about 20 years, Croatian alto-saxophonist who has deeply investigated the big band legacy (a 10 years tenure at RTS Big Band from Lubiana) mentions Reggie Workman, and Blue Lou Marinia (of Blues Brothers Band) among his mentors, plus David Murray and Maria Schneider as artists who have mostly influenced his arranging skills. Performing on a sidewalk where modern touches on mainstream, he put together a quartet of Blaž Jurjevčić on piano, Gašpar Bertoncelj on drums, and Nikola Matošić on double bass. Although Kadoić’s charisma shines primarily from his alto be-bop skills and merciless performative energy, the opening “Ann” shines with soprano, while on BolesŁaw Kaper’s “Invitation” he finds the tinges of European jazz romanticism. The visiting musicianship from electric guitarist Ivan Kapec is set over the course of three pieces. As a leader, Kadoić capably distributes the nocturnal feeling over the participants’ discipline and thus bridges both the historic and stylistic leaps this music can offer. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the album comes by its end, when earlier material is revisited: ‘Istriana’, slightly M-Base-d on the pentatonic scale material from Adriatic folklore (a piece from his first album “Dry”), and “Vitro”, a jazz-rock piece originally conceived by Ten Directions ensemble. As a hard-working musician, who doesn’t seem to be worried about his inconstant discography mater, Kadoić prefers to state that “Creating music is more than making a product”. Sounds so ‘now’, doesn’t it?
Reviews on Monster in the Garden
The architects of improvisation
Playing jazz in Croatia has developed into a serious artistic activity some half a century ago, so there is absolutely no need to present this intriguing quartet as something exotic, coming from the far reaches of European culture. Mirokado Quartet can and should be judged in comparison to other jazz musicians, both contemporary and classical. For, in this age of stylistic plurality and eclecticism, this group demonstrates command of various registers and modes of contemporary jazz – at times they are blowing and playing hard and fast, but they really excel at deeply emotional (borderline painful) slow pace performances.At times they may remind us of the contemplative ECM jazz school (accentuated by styles developed in Northern and Central Europe, with the occasional oriental touch), at times they rely directly on the American influences (from bebop and hard-bop to the contemporary scene). But, don’t get me wrong, the Mirokado’s never lose sight of the goal of being original and inventive, of having authentic conception and delivery. After all, all the compositions are the leader’s originals. And the leader Miro Kadoić, instrumentalist already known outside Croatian borders (alto-sax is his main axe, but he also plays flute and clarinet) proves yet again that he is an interesting composer as well (Reconciliation and Noble Statement are my favourite compositions of the album).Incidentally, I’ve heard some of these songs arranged for larger orchestras and they hold water in that guise as well.Elvis Penava on guitar, Goran Rukavina on bass and Janko Novoselić on drums work with the leader very well, without any doubt making a very compact group, but (fortunately enough) they also have enough space for some highly individual contributions as well – Penava’s subtle guitar solos merit listeners special attention.Finally, there is one thing this fine group shares with most other great groups and players from the past: from the heyday of Benny Carter, Charlie Parker, Bud Shank, Cannonball Adderley or Eric Dolphy to the present day, the art of jazz improvising is in most supreme instances reminiscent of building cathedrals.Mirokado Quartet, under Kadoić’s intelligent guidance, builds its performances carefully, uses electrical (or digital) effects and switches instruments only when necessary, applying caution and taste, preserving the feeling of jazz as the art that is equally passionate and cerebral.Monster in the Garden is therefore yet another beautiful example of the architecture of contemporary European jazz.
On songs, briefly
At the very start of Blue Land, Kadoić already shows his gentle side, blowing first together with himself (with a little help of overdubbing) and soloing with emotion that is at first glance restrained but potentially very powerful. Penava helps steer this song towards equally subtle ending (why exactly did I remember Benny Golson’s I Remember Clifford when I tried to think about Blue Land?) and the rhythm section is working beautifully together, announcing proudly the rest of the CD.Tangero has a slightly oriental spice, at least partly merged with the blues, and both Kadoić and Penava fly really high with their solos. The song is five and a half minutes long, but it is so compactly performed that it seems like an intense explosion of pure emotion. Kadoić is really great as he improvises the ending away, making it into a beautiful solo that flows naturally from the original melody.And then comes Monster in the garden; slightly menacing in the leader’s tone, with drums suggesting a polyrhythmic background, aiding the saxophone to go beyond the basic harmonies… This is a very suggestive performance (with the bass and drums leading Penava in his own flight of musical fancy), no wonder it was chosen as the title song. Near the end, Novoselić is liberated to grow few drum breaks into a very convincing solo, perhaps showing the monster that finally emerged from the quaint bushes of the garden.Cool nature is another moody gem, rich in musical innuendo, with Kadoić starting tentatively, as if he was testing the waters for something fiery to come (or perhaps suggesting another disturbing emotion). The fire is growing slowly, as the tempo changes slightly and Kadoić uses the upper register in his improvisation build-up, coming down again to open the way for yet another Penava’s subtle statement.Driving with Hugo (named after Kadoić’s friend who is somewhat unpleasant behind the steering wheal) is a hard driving song from the very start, giving Rukavina and Novoselić ample space to shine in the up-tempo performance as well. But Kadoić is still elegant, gliding over the bars with ease that comes only with mastery of the instrument. Penava, naturally, doesn’t disappoint when it is his turn to solo – we can see why he is so compatible with the leader: while Kadoić shows his core elegance even in faster and funkier performances, Penava suggests fire even at the slowest tempos.But as a composer, Kadoić imbues even the gentlest ballads with the lessons in fire that started in modern jazz with the hard-bop tendencies – Penava, Novoselić and Rukavina give a voice to that side of the leader’s musical persona.For a change of pace, the listener is blessed with Reconciliation, one of the most beautiful pieces of the album, sad as a lonely evening after the break-up of a romance. It is no wonder Rukavina takes a solo at this gem (backed by Penava’s distorted emotion and Novoselić in a lovely percussive mood); this composition needed an additional spice before the leader closes it gently. Perhaps the title might suggest a more upbeat song, but it seems that the reconciliation is the object of desire, not something achieved or attainable.East of the West (not East of the Sun, nor West of the Moon) goes far with the leader’s alto-sax, but it is when Penava solos that the song really grows, with Rukavina and Novoselić playing beautifully behind him and with him, and then merging together to lead towards Kadoić’s lovely closing statement (he makes it sound so easy… I ought to take a few weeks off and learn to play!).Noble statement is quite a noble performance indeed, with the flute flowing as smoothly as we have by now grown to expect from Kadoić’s playing. The additional spice of the instrument’s more penetrating sound, however, might suggest some sort of gentle irony in this noblesse. Perhaps it is the sound of the flute that makes this composition so convincing, but the choice of instruments and their sounds is integral part of the jazz composing/arranging, while sparks of wit or humour are always welcome in good jazz.Finally, as a fitting ending to the compact and well conceived album, Kissing the silk starts as a gentle tribute to the be-bop phrasing and harmonies (with alto-sax in the starring role again), but Kadoić intelligently slows down for a second when he starts to improvise after the initial statement, showing that this will be a more modern performance – naturally, aided by the rest of the crew tight as ever, with Penava soloing beautifully again. Nikica Gilić