Jazz is indigenousness to the United States. In the late 1800s, New Orleans was where all the musical influences in America converged. In that timeframe, Buddy Bolden, a cornetist who played by ear absorbed the music he heard in New Orleans and fused it together into what is known today as Jazz. It was a revolutionary concept designed to accommodate any music genre.
In the twenty-first century, “Ascension” a debut album on A.MA Records by Sanja Markovic exemplifies and built upon the concept Buddy Bolden began at the birth of Jazz. Markovic has the same ear as Buddy Bolden for fusing musical elements into cohesive work, and she knows the roots of Jazz. Her work is not merely academic facsimile attempts, it is original, contemporary, and well-grounded in tradition. Before I heard “Ascension” I did a little research on Markovic. I found her work on Youtube, and an old Bossa Nova song popped up, “Águas de Março/Waters of March” by Carlos Antonio Jobim. It’s sort of a silly, flirtatious song, but difficult to put across with the right feeling. Markovic’s performance of that song sold me on listening to “Ascension.”
“Ascension” is impressive, to say the least. Markovic composed, arranged, produced, sang, played alto and tenor sax, and wrote the lyrics for the album. Antonio Martino at A,MA records said it only one of two prerecorded albums he ever put out that he didn’t have a major producer’s role in the whole project.
I found it somewhat intimidating to contact Markovic and discover more about what her motivations and influences were. I like to get a sense of who the musician is before writing a piece. Markovic was very accommodating.
Rather than get into an analytical dissertation, conjure a load of metaphoric analogies, or pull out the thesaurus chasing down a bunch of perfumed adjectives, I’ll just cut to the chase and state unequivocally – listen to Sanja Markovic’s “Ascension.”
This is what “Ascension” reflects in Markovic’s words:
“I live in the Balkans – Serbia – the city of Belgrade.
“My childhood was spent during the rise of Milosevic’s regime and the war during the 1990s that dismembered what once was Yugoslavia – a war from which I ran to the United States in 1992 with my mother and brother.
“After middle school and freshman year in Washington D.C., something drew me back to Belgrade again where I finished high school – and then four years later, NATO began bombing in 1999.
“It was time again to search for a better life in the United States. I’ve lived in Virginia as a kid, later Washington D.C., New York from 1999 on ….but…I kept going back to my homeland.
“Now, I am raising my six-year-old daughter here in Belgrade. This is, in essence, a beautiful country; however, the constant above mentioned circumstances have brought about the rise of human greed, ignorance, and primal aggressiveness.
“This is mainly present in our politics where all sorts of behavioral deviance, when distorted and amplified by survival instincts create a degrading morally challenged society, killing empathy and healthy conditions for culture and art to thrive in. This circumstance has formed deeply rooted weeds of corruption where bad taste flourishes successfully at the expense of value, culture, and kindness.”
“N’anya” (composed and arranged by Sanja Markovic ) Ivan Radivojevic – flugelhorn and trumpet Sanja Markovic – tenor saxophone (solo and 3rd voice in free jazz, variation theme end) Rastko Obradovic – tenor saxophone (improv in free, 1st voice theme end) Aleksandar Grujic – piano Milan Nikolic – double bass Predrag Milutinovic – drums.
“Sovereign State of Mind” (composition, arrangement, and lyrics by Sanja Markovic) Sanja Markovic – voice Aleksandar Buzadzic – melodica Aleksandar Grujic – el. piano Milan Nikolic – double bass Predrag Milutinovic – drums.
“Ascension” (composed and arranged by Sanja Markovic; lyrics by Sanja Markovic with quotes from “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman) Sanja Markovic – vocals Ivan Radivojevic – trumpet Milena Jancuric – flute Max Kochetov – soprano saxophone Mina Djekic – violin Julijana Markovic – cello Aleksandar Grujic – el. piano Miroslav Tovirac – el. bass Igor Malesevic – drums.
“It Has Always Been” (composition, arrangement, and lyrics by Sanja Markovic) Sanja Markovic – vocals, soprano saxophone, and tenor saxophone (1st part) Ivan Radivojevic – trumpet Rastko Obradovic – tenor saxophone (3rd part and improv) Aleksandar Grujic – piano Miroslav Tovirac – el. bass Predrag Milutinovic – drums.
“Zhega” (meaning ‘drought’ in Serbian) (composed and arranged by Sanja Markovic) Sanja Markovic – soprano and tenor saxophone Manja Ristic – violin Ivana Grahovac – cello Igor Lazic – french horn Mihajlo Dobosavljevic – trombone Aleksandar Grujic – piano Milan Nikolic – double bass Predrag Milutinovic – drums.
“Sun” (composed and arranged by Sanja Markovic; lyrics by Sanja Markovic based on an XVI century Serbian poem) Sanja Markovic – voice, soprano saxophone Milena Jancuric – flute Julijana Markovic – cello Mina Djekic – violin Aleksandar Grujic – piano Milan Nikolic – double bass Petar Radmilovic – drums Produced by Sanja Markovic Mix and mastering engineer: Aleksandar Buzadzic Recording engineers: Danilo Orbovic, Djordje Jankovic, Zoran Marinkovic, Aleksandar Buzadzic, Sanja Markovic Recorded at “Orvel Studios”, “Barba Studio”, “Kolarac” concert hall, and at Home.