Continental Talk is the latest release by Croatian-born guitarist Ratko Zjaca. You may not have heard of Zjaca, but you will surely have heard of the sidemen he brought together for this project. The likes of Patitucci, Gadd, and a Brecker brother thrown in for good measure, make this a who’s who of session jazzmen. Working along with saxophonist Stanislav Mitrovic, Zjaca delivers an impressive collection of compositions executed freely by the top notch band. Steve Gadd and John Patitucci make an excellent rhythm section capable of any form of groove creation and maintenance. Randy Brecker on trumpet and Mitrovic on saxes, provide two voices to compliment Zjaca in putting the color into his compositions.
All twelve of the compositions on this CD are unique in the way they allow the entire ensemble to blend and create a signature sound while enabling individual voices to rise up for the listener. Ratko Zjaca is an accomplished guitarist, having worked both sides of the pond with the likes of Al Foster and others. This line-up, however, is an ideal grouping for these songs. The compositions are beautiful canvases for the artists to paint a new picture of emotional depth. This is not a CD aimed at spotlighting Zjaca’s own talent on guitar, although it certainly does that. No, this CD is a venue for some really interesting compositions to be expressed by some extremely talented musicians. The fact that the session went down without a hitch and that the musicians themselves have expressed satisfaction with what they all have created is testimony to the vision that Zjaca had. Bring these great musicians together, give them solid charts to create with and let them do their thing.
Another surprise on this CD is the remarkable saxophone work of Stan Mitrovic. He wields both tenor and soprano with power and sensitivity. One of my favorites is his opening duet with Steve Gadd on drums on the cut "Inner Ear." His compositions "Correspondance" and "Feather" add dimension to the collection, spreading out that power and sensitivity. Brecker stretches out on "Correspondance," pulling Zjaca into a place that makes this composition really swing. On "Feather," the soprano work is haunting and wistful.
With an A-list of sessions players, compositions that reek of classic jazz, and execution that is flawless in its freshness, Continental Talk is a piece of work that should begin to draw jazz fans to Ratko Zjaca’s work. He demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the art and craft of jazz, composition, arrangement and execution...if evidenced in no other way than knowing which musicians to put in a studio to make the music come alive! As a guitarist, he has so much to offer. This CD is a fair taste of that contribution that Zjaca has made and is yet to make. He continues to make jazz the international language!