Incredible playing, well crafted tunes, and top-notch production make for an outstanding release by guitarist Ratko Zjaca and tenor saxophonist Stanislav Mitrovic. On Crossing the Border, the European duo, joined by two giants of modern jazz, drummer Al Foster and bassist John Patitucci, provide a soulful listening experience while challenging their own musical identities.
Zjaca, a guitarist of diverse influence, is hard to categorize. His tone is pure and his lines are highly lyrical. His solos contain traces of legends ranging from Kenny Burrell to Pat Metheny. All nods to the past, however, are merely incidental, and perhaps necessary, as Zjaca takes his place in the lineage of jazz guitar. His compositions are harmonically rich, clever, and stylistically diverse. "Welcome to Our Jungle" has a modal texture and melodic structure resembling Eddie Harris’ "Freedom Jazz Dance," "The Place to Be" is a buoyant waltz, and "Soul House" is a meditative bossa nova.
Co-leader and contributing composer Mitrovic has a dominating, yet sensitive tone. His sound contains the brawn of old-time shouters like Gene Ammons and the elusiveness of Wayne Shorter.
Patitucci is in characteristically brilliant form. His feel, choice of notes, and intonation is astonishing. The bassist takes breathtaking solo leaps on "Another Day," "For No Reason," and the short, unaccompanied "Bass."
Crossing the Border is a solid testament to the healthy state of jazz. Zjaca and Mitrovic are both confident artists who have a firm grasp of the genre’s history and are well prepared to help shape the future.