Jazz at the 31st MBZ

Croatian Jazz Diaspora at the MBZ
Davor Hrvoj, member of the Biennale Program Committee, writes about the jazz concerts which are to be held as part of a special Biennale programming block, the Jazz.hr / Spring – MBZ Open Air, May 11 to 16, 2021:
Jazz music has been a part of the Music Biennale Zagreb almost from the start. Even early on, the audience had an opportunity to hear the world’s leading representatives of avant-garde jazz perform, including the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley, Piano Conclave, George Adams – Don Pullen Quartet, Aki Takase – Maria João. The collaboration with the Biennale began when the Croatian Composers’ Society launched jazz events, now known jointly as Jazz.hr. This co-production also featured top jazz musicians, experimentalists: Michel Portal, Louis Sclavis, Trilok Gurtu, Fred Frith, Uri Caine, Jon Irabagon, etc. as well as Croatian jazz authors and interpreters, from Boško Petrović to Matija Dedić and Zoran Šćekić, who have also found their spot.
This year, under the motto “Croatian Jazz Diaspora,” the interpreters are some of Croatian musicians who live and work abroad and have outstanding international careers.
Contemporary and Elegant
From France, we have jazz drummer and composer Lada Obradović who attracted a great deal of international attention a year ago when Netflix began airing its series The Eddy, by Grammy-winning director Damien Chazelle, in which she portrayed a drummer and played in the house band of the club of the same name. Lada’s motto is: “Music is an image of life, a vision of the world, a scream that transmits the sounds of the universe!”
Lada has been active in a variety of international ensembles and projects since graduating. 
The brave young musician learns continuously and is focused on the development of distinctive musical ideas. She is creative, has a clear vision and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. She has demonstrated this in various collaborations as well as in the actions she undertakes to achieve the best promotion of her production. In addition to becoming an excellent drummer, she is also an imaginative author searching for a multicultural approach and unconventional methods in artistic creation.
Together with French pianist David Tixier, she manages a multi-award-winning project founded in 2016. The duo performs contemporary and elegant music by combining acoustic and electronic instruments – Moog, Fender Rhodes, glockenspiel, mbira and more.
Augmented reality 
Alba Nacinovich and Leo Škec are the Augmented Reality duo: Alba’s voice combines jazzy smoothness and rock-adjacent edginess, while Leo’s cheeky approach to guitar playing blends acoustic, distorted and percussive sounds. 
Alba has a degree in jazz singing and has received numerous awards as a performer, a composer and an arranger of jazz and electronic music. She has performed all over Europe, with musicians like the Grammy-nominated Glauco Venier and The Zawinul Legacy Band. She has appeared on award-winning albums by Žan Tetičkovič, Elvis Stanić, Zvjezdan Ružić and Ivan Pešut. Leo is a guitarist with experience in various genres of music and various types of ensembles, from duos to big bands. In 2016, he released an album with his Salty Tails outfit. The duo have spent 2017 and 2018 in London, where they worked on original songs, which they presented in legendary clubs like Ronnie Scott’s and The Troubadour. They also established a collaboration with the producer Gerry Diver.
On this concert, they will present music from their forthcoming album, their versions of pieces by Brad Mehldau, Chris Potter and Vasil Hadžimanov, as well as an hommage to unorthodox jazz vocalists.
An Authentically American Groove
foto: Davor Hrvoj
From the Netherlands, we have tenor saxophonist Domagoj Ralašić, who is known not only for his powerful, well-rounded tone, but for the potent performances reminiscent of the great musicians who created the history of jazz. He studied at the Music Academy in Zagreb and the American Berklee College of Music and graduated from the Jazz Department of the Royal Conservatory in Rotterdam. Ralašić gained experience playing with Boško Petrović and other renowned Croatian jazz musicians, as well as with the legendary jazz musicians from around the world, such as Clark Terry, James Moody, Bob Brookmeyer, Al Foster, Reggie Workman, Ronnie Cuber, Eddie Gomez, Jesse Davis, Benny Bailey and N.H.O. Pedersen. His global reputation is further illustrated by the fact that his album The Bag Is Packed featured renowned musicians like Don Bennett, Benny Bailey and Douglas Sides. The quartet Ralašić is bringing to Jazz.hr/Biennale, to perform his pieces as well as jazz standards, is dedicated to authentically American groovy jazz with a lot of swing, but also blues and soul.
A Cinematic Quartet
foto: Davor Hrvoj
From Austria, we have the classically educated cellist Asja Valčić, who is this year’s member of the stage band at the Viennese jazz club Porgy & Bess. She has collaborated with the great jazz musicians, such as Joachim Kühn, Rolf Kühn, Wolfgang Puschnig, Jan Lundgren... Early in her career, she broadened the scope of her work with the improvisation, composition and stylistics of jazz and world music. After the founding of the radio.string.quartet and the great success of the first CD “Celebrating Mahavishnu Orchestra,” she signed for one of the leading German record companies, ACT, in 2006.
She released a dozen CDs for the same label, not only with the quartet but also in trio with Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala, although mostly in duo with Klaus Paier, with whom she has extensively performed around the world for over ten years. The Timeless Suite CD is the fourth release this duo has done in its decade-long collaboration. The Paier Valcic Quartet was founded in 2013 with Paier’s long-time colleagues, bassist Stefan Gfrerrer and drummer Roman Werni. Their joint CD, Cinema Scenes — music from which we will hear at the Jazz.hr Spring festival and the MBZ — contains compositions by both musicians as well as film score arrangements.
Audio-visual concepts
foto: Davor Hrvoj
Grgur Savić is a saxophone player and a composer, a part of the large experimental music scene in Berlin, and is highly interested in understanding the close relationship between various composed experimental musics and free improvisation – his musical experience has not been limited to Jazz and Crossover. In-between recording and playing shows, Grgur Savić produces music, works on film and makes short documentaries and movies. 
In Zagreb, Savić will perform with the Pitch Shifting Group. Lead by Savić and visual artist and designer Sanja Star, the group explores different types of today’s technology, with live electro-acoustic instruments. The emphasis is generally placed on mood, texture, performative gesture: timbre, melodic intervals, rhythm and the spontaneous interaction between musicians. The Pitch Shifting Group has been influenced by other areas of exploration, aspects of modern classical music, noise, IDM, minimalism and electroacoustic music. They provide a new dimension, an improvised audio-visual set with visual expressions and spatial arrangements of collages and animations: Sanja Star creates digital motion collages, using 3D art, creative code – a visual programming language, animation and design techniques. She creates a visual semiotic system that is the synchronous union of music and video.
Davor Hrvoj