Melting Melodies

When Young Players give Jazz a Slight Touch of Alternativeness and Modernity

Replugged, on Lerchenfelderstrasse in the 7th district, might not be the most renowned place on Vienna’s musical scene, but fans who enjoy gathering for gigs in obscure underground locations know where to find the steps down.

As I entered the club, the dimmed lights and smell of cold tobacco, suddenly fool my eyes, taking me back to the 1930’s, where the melodies of piano jazz would have blended with the smoke spiraling up in wreaths around the lamps, where men nursed their  whiskey and puffed their cigars hovered in intense conversation around tiny tables to bubbles of laughter from sleek, bobbed haired women.

That night, the round tables were larger, and the people were drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, but the spirit remained throughout the evening and embraced every jazz lover in the room.

The band was late, which left time to swap stories about musicians who had played earlier in the week. People moved from table to table, greeting friends, trading opinions and expectation for the night. But suddenly the guitar rang out and silence fell over the room, as the trio came out on stage: Georgi Sareski, on guitar Klemens Martkl, on drums, and Bernd Satzinger, on bass.

Born in 1983 in Skopje, Sareski is one of the most dynamic jazz musicians in Macedonia. An honors graduate of the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, he went on to win 1st prize in the 2005 International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) competition, and is a candidate for the Gil Evans Fellowship for 2007 – the most important competition for jazz composition in the world.

His two albums have been described as both modern and alternative, with a constant swing between the contemporary and the traditional, shifting between soft blues and ringing electric melodies that cut across eras and idioms, confirming his skill as a composer and arranger.

As the red spot focused on Sareski, the vibrations from his guitar called the trio together – the sounds of intimate jazz from an earlier time blending with rich harmonies of chamber music, and abstract guitar riffs suddenly settling into steady melodic lines.

At the end of each piece, and between sips of beer, Sareski would tell the story of each piece, how he had come to write it and why, bringing his audience closer to an understanding of the music. He was a natural speaker, his anecdotes laced with humorous asides that transformed the show into intimate comedy, where laughter melted together with the melodies.

From the Love song 168, that he composed after falling head over heels, which he claims happens regularly every two years, to the Waltz for Me, which he wrote for himself, “as no one else will ever write me a Waltz song.”

And there, in the middle of the flowing of beats and tunes, a different mood appeared out of nowhere, as a sweet and soft ribbon of sound familiar to all: Summertime. (His mother, by the way, claims this is the best arrangement of Summertime ever…)

A man in the black felt hat of a Spanish priest who was sitting at a small table in the back smoking a cigarillo, started humming the song ing a deep voice, and again the time melted back decades, to Vienna before the war.

And to a rise of smiles and laughter, the trio played The Curse Song, from a few months ago when Sareski believed someone had jinxed him. People were acting differently, his days were filled with unpleasantness. Playing the tune would send the curse boomeranging back to the sender!

Several minutes and sips of beer later, the Shoes Song told about a pair Sareski’s father had bought him that were really not of his taste, but of course one is obliged to act delighted!

And oddly enough, he was wearing them that night. Don’t attempt to find rational reasons here.

And the last, Jovano Jovanke swept the Macedonians present off their proverbial feet, a beloved traditional Macedonian song Sareski had arranged give it a little electronic punch, more speed in the sequences, but with its Slavic soul intact.

And the original calm and relaxed evening was transformed into an explosive performance with the audience in fusion with the trio. The audience left the club haunted by the music, melodies lingering for hours just behind the veil of thought.

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