About one year ago I wrote a review for the record of a skilled jazz guitarist, Ratko Zjaca. The album was titled “Life on earth” and offered elegant and clean jazz, with a first-rate arrangement and production work. I wrote: “The Nocturnal Four do a perfect job, smooth and with an almost aerodynamic, pulsating and precise sound.” Well. Ratko Zjaca is back with two records: the first, always with the Nocturnal Four (Ratko Zjaca guitar, Renato Chicco Hammond C3 organ, Stefano Bedetti tenox saxophone and John Riley, drum) is titled “Light In The World”, the second one is a collection where there are songs from different albums and in which our guitarist is accompanied by the Nocturnal Four and other well-established stars such as John Patitucci, Antonio Sanchez, Miroslav Vitous, Adam Nussbaum, just to name a few.
The two records are very similar and show a common uniformity of language and style, Zjaca is a guitarist with an impeccable, confident and smooth style that are not so easy to find in these days. There is a really intense study and development work in his notes, where the quote is so extensive that it in turn becomes an element of style. Behind Zjaca you can see the blurred images, the soundprints of all the giants of the jazz guitar and his music shows a colorful, controlled and serene tension.
Zjaca’s music does not express a radical tendency towards experimentation or the avant-garde, but is more a research work on phrasing and tone. It expresses a serenity that fascinates, involves and comforts. It is a good thing that these two records came out in this particular historical moment, where our emotions were upset, this music, apparently almost light and subtle, gives us oxygen and calms the mind. It does not express disengagement but, at the same time, it is also light years away from the celebrity and intellectual coldness that are the characteristics and also the original sin that distinguishes contemporary music.
It’s music that I could also define as firmly rooted in a tradition that was mainstream about twenty years ago, when style, arrangements, production and virtuosity were among the characteristics that were most often asked for the musicians. It also takes a lot of courage to release two albums, in the CD version, in these times of profound social and economic uncertainty, just for wanting to realize them anyway, they instill a sense of security and certainty, like saying that you go further, that you continue, that music always goes on. This shows the presence of an honest, correct and sincere modus operandi. No controversy. No complaints. No fall of style.