Jazz has become a truly international art form in the new millennium, and some of its most creative players now come from places like Zagreb, Croatia. What makes Matija Dedic special is his touch and the way his poetic concept unfolds and deepens over the course of an album. Dedic is as seductive as Tord Gustavsen. The opening of the first track here, "Her Name," could be Gustavsen. It has that hush, the keys barely touched, the simple incantatory repetitions becoming complex mysteries.
But Dedic is a romantic with wide dynamic range. Pieces like "Update" and "Cheekee Chicks" and "Jungle Blues" are rhythmically intricate and infectious and intense. Dedic sometimes plays Fender Rhodes, and is a deft manipulator of electronics, which he uses on most tracks to add colors to his trio music and extend its depth of field.
The trio here is not a working band. Dedic made this record in Manhattan with one of New York's best young rhythm sections, Vicente Archer and Kendrick Scott. Archer sounds like he has been weaving bass rituals through Dedic's piano lines for 20 years.
The tunes mentioned above are originals. Dedic writes lines that linger in one's tonal memory. Yet the high points of this album are four extraordinary covers, on which Dedic improvises like a composer. Toby Gad's "If I Were A Boy," a hit for Beyoncé, is resonant and solemn, a secular prayer. Many jazz musicians have played "Maiden Voyage." Dedic's version has quiet rapture. For over ten minutes, he bathes new soft light on the crystal core of Herbie Hancock's melody. Miles Davis' "Blue In Green" is so slow it seems to hover in place. Dedic is a conjurer who works in the medium of mood like a painter works in oils. Vicente Archer is stark and profound on "Blue In Green," and the synthesized string orchestra is like a darkening sky. "Fragile" translates Sting's human cry, his call, into non-verbal musical language and it becomes more universal.