ECM reviews – Between sound and space: ECM records and beyond (January 8th, 2019) written by Tyran Grillo

Album: V by Uros Spasojevic/Bojan Marjanovic

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines “flow” as a oneness of performer and process, and on electric bassist Uros Spasojevic and pianist Bojan Marjanovic achieve precisely that. That said, the Serbian duo doesn’t so much combine forces as close the gap between them, like two hands from different religious traditions coming together in a single prayer.

Spasojevic is unique for drawing out the bass’ corporeal qualities. In his solo “North,” he opens the curtain in a gesture so holistic that it seems to inhale and exhale simultaneously. With a tone that’s rounded yet which pierces the heart, he drops higher notes into a blurry pond, every ripple like a newborn song in search of words. The piano’s entrance in “Senok” reveals, with quiet assurance, an underlying Ketil Bjørnstad influence. Yet while the Norwegian pianist-composer’s cinematic lyricism is paralleled, it’s filtered through a color scheme all its own. Such an association suggests an ECM connection, and by no coincidence, as Spasojevic—who writes all the music here—cites the label as a staple of his listening diet. Such respect is further enhanced by the fact that the album was mixed and mastered under the attentive hand of Jan Erik Kongshaug at Oslo’s famed Rainbow Studio, and by the familiar thematic fragment of “Water,” which seems to have been lifted sanctimoniously from Kenny Wheeler’s “Nicolette.”

The sonic footprint of V is as non-invasive as it is expansive. In “Guide” and “Change,” it reaches deepest layers of emotional transference, rendering hidden dreams with the pigment of open realities. “Hope” is a prelude to the title track, of which a pianistic lattice offers its plot to Spasojevic’s melodic fruit. As Marjanovic heightens his freedom of expression in spiraling architectures, he uncovers more than the album’s mission statement, but a land without borders. “End of the hill” thus surveys the album’s most abstract territories, making use of electronic augmentations and spontaneous impulses, while “Sea” closes the circle with another lone journey, of which every step brings us farther from a destination, letting us float instead across a misty sea, thankful for the beauty of unknowing.

Music for Watermelons (April 28th, 2019) by Marcello Nardi

Album: V by Uros Spasojevic/Bojan Marjanovic

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.

Jazz Journal UK (May 15th, 2019) by Michael Tucker

Album: V by Uros Spasojevic/Bojan Marjanovic

Recorded at Oslo’s famed Rainbow Studio, this ultra-reflective, reverb-and-reverie-rich album began life as a film soundtrack project but stands up well on its own account.

The press release cites Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjørnstad as a chief influence: certainly, the music – all of which was composed by Serbian electric bassist Spasojevic – has much of the adagio mood and rubato blend of late romanticism and post-Jarrett pianism that one associates with the ECM recording artist (e.g., Guide).

However, the use of electric bass as lead instrument, played mostly legato across its full range, and with some wondrous creative exploitation of both the lowest and highest registers, brings something distinct to matters as liminal as they are lyrical.

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Nettavisen (August 25th, 2019) by Tor Hammerø 

Album: V by Uros Spasojevic/Bojan Marjanovic

Det kommer jo ikke som noen stor overraskelse at norske artister, og kanskje spesielt ECM-assosierte, har inspirert andre rundt omkring i verden. Jeg tror likevel det er første gang jeg har hørt at Ketil Bjørnstad så spesifikt har blitt nevnt og når det kommer fra to serbere på henholdsvis elbass, Spasojevic, og piano, Marjanovic, så blir det uansett ganske spesielt.

Ikke nok med det: Bojan Marjanovic har bodd og studert i Norge siden 2016. Det er likevel elbassist Spasojevic som har komponert all musikken. I utgangspunktet skulle det være som en del av et filmprosjekt og sjøl om filmen kanskje ikke finnes, så er det lett å se for seg bilder og scener underveis – stemningsfulle sådan.

Spasojevic løfter fram elbassen til et melodiledende instrument. Med hans følsomme uttrykk, personlige sound og svært langt framskredne teknikk, faller det han like naturlig som når giganter på elbass som Jaco Pastorius og Steve Swallow gjør det.

Marjanovic har åpenbart solid klassisk bakgrunn, men har også kommet langt som improviserende og lyttende pianist. Det har ført til at samtalene mellom han og Spasojevic har blitt av det givende slaget og det helt spesielle soundet som oppstår i spenningsfeltet mellom elbass og piano, er også sjeldent og spennende.

Musikken er melodisk, vakker og nedpå og sjøl om det er mulig å «høre» Bjørnstad her – avslutningslåta heter for sikkerhets skyld «Sea» – så er det langt i fra noe plagiat av Bjørnstads univers. Spasojevic sine komposisjoner og Marjanovic sitt pianospill har helt egne bumerker og sørger for at «V» har blitt et lite og vakkert smykke av ei plate.

Nordische Musik

Album: V by Uros Spasojevic/Bojan Marjanovic

Für ein ganz besonderes Duoalbum auf dem feinen Osloer Label AMP haben sich hier Bassist Uros Spasojevic und Pianist Bojan Marjanovic zusammengefunden. Denn nicht etwa der Mann am Klavier übernimmt die Führungsrolle, sondern tatsächlich der Bassist, von dem auch sämtliche Kompositionen stammen. Das macht sich nicht zuletzt daran bemerkbar, dass sich Spasojevic mit seinem fünfsaitigen elektrischen Bass einige Solo-Freiräume nimmt, so etwa beim Eröffnungsstück, in dem er durch einen streicherähnlichen Anschlag unter Einsatz eines Volume-Pedals weite Klangflächen entstehen lässt, wie man sie beispielsweise vom Gitarristen Eivind Aarset kennt.

Wenn der klassisch ausgebildete Marjanovic hinzutritt, entsteht oftmals ein kammermusikalischer Duktus, wie er der ECM-Ästhetik nicht fern ist; gelegentlich wähnt man sich gar bei Ketil Bjørnstad, in dessen Kontext sich Spasojevic mit diesem Album ausdrücklich verstanden wissen will. Es gerät bisweilen in einen schönen Flow, etwa beim Stück »Water«, aber insgesamt erreicht die Aufnahme selten einen solch elaborierten Gestus, wie wir ihn von ähnlich gelagerten Aufnahmen eben aus dem Hause ECM kennen. Neben Bjørnstads Œuvre seien hier die Solo-Bass-Aufnahme »PROVENANCE« von Björn Meyer oder gar Eberhard Webers »PENDULUM« erwähnt.

Wenn Marjanovic im Titelstück »V« dann dem Jazz entlehnte Läufe spielt, oder in »End of the Hill« sein Klavier präpariert, geht auch ein Stück weit die Stringenz verloren. Klanglich betrachtet haben wir aus dem Rainbow Studio ebenfalls schon Besseres gehört.

All About Jazz (December 23rd, 2018) by Mark Sullivan

Album: V by Uros Spasojevic/Bojan Marjanovic

Serbian electric bass guitarist Uros Spasojevic presents an intimate set of solos and duets with pianist Bojan Marjanovic. He plays an extended range instrument, frequently employing an approach more like a guitarist than a bassist—in terms of both timbre and register.

Opener “North” is the first of three unaccompanied bass pieces. Beginning with volume-pedal swelled chords which are then looped, Spasojevic adds a spare, echoing solo part. In contrast “Senok” features Marjanovic’s piano with a lyrical unaccompanied opening, accompanied by the bass before Spasojevic joins in melodically. The low bass register finally makes an audible appearance in the leader’s playing during “Water,” giving the arpeggios new range and depth. The title tune sounds very much like a guitar solo with piano accompaniment.

Several tracks go into more experimental territory. “Hope” is another unaccompanied bass solo set in a huge reverberant space. Much of “End of the Hill” employs atmospheric rubato piano and electronic sound effects from the bass. Closer “Sea” sets up an arpeggiated loop, followed by a bass solo with extreme echo effects and pitch shifting.

Given Spasojevic’s admitted love of the ECM sound it is notable that the recording sessions took place at Oslo’s storied Rainbow Studios, with mixing and mastering by engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug (veteran of numerous ECM sessions). The album as a whole recalls electric bassist Bjorn Meyer’s solo album Provenance (ECM Records, 2017). Spasojevic has a distinctive voice on the electric bass, worthy of a brighter spotlight than he has received so far.

Musikkoperatørene (December 7th, 2018)

Album: V by Uros Spasojevic/Bojan Marjanovic

Akkurat som i albumtittelen, bokstaven V, finner dette konseptuelle prosjekt et møtested mellom to uavhengige linjer. Jakten på en sterk forbindelse av disse linjene er begynnelsen på reisen til denne unge, talentfulle serbiske duoen bestående av Uros Spasojevic og Bojan Marjanovic. Uros Spasojevic – bass, Bojan Marjanovic – piano
Med den norske pianisten og komponisten Ketil Bjørnstad som hovedinfluense, og på grunn av at duo-samarbeidet ble startet som en del av en filmprosjekt, føles musikken på V som et soundtrack til en fremtidig film som spiller på kontrasten og komplimentet mellom to sterke instrumentalister. Det som først virker som motsatte signaturer forener seg til slutt og blir til noe nytt og fortryllende.
Sammen bygger Uros og Bojan nye veier in i lytterens musikkhorisont, og sletter liminalgrensen der fortiden slutter og fremtiden begynner. Deres dialoger er definert av dekonstruktiv behandling, roller og uttrykksfulle samspillsvalg. Da fokuset ligger på basen og dens melodiske funksjonalitet, utforsker pianot forskjellige
teksturmodeller med sterk influense av moderne klassisk musikk. På de fleste spor er basens timbre og stemninger kombinert med gjennomkomponert materiale, noe som skaper en helhet som er kompleks men samtidig tilgjengelig.
Materialet er skrevet av Uros Spasojevic, som står fast ved ideen om at bass kan være et ledende melodisk og soloinstrument som er i stand til at skape polyfoni og improvisasjonslogikk. Med god smak og raffinement, strever han etter at skape enkelhet, oppriktighet og originalitet. Bojan Marjanovic er en allsidig pianist med ferdigheter som spenner fra improvisert musikk og moderne jazz. Til tross for å være klassisk utdannet, har han oversatt sin multivalente identitet og nysgjerrighet til en utforskning av musikk utover stilistiske grenser. Dette er deres første album som duo. V är inspelat i legendariska Rainbow Studio, Oslo av Martin Abrahamsen och mixat/mastrat av Jan Erik Kongshaug.