The classically trained, Croatian born pianist Matija Dedic’ certainly wears his Euro-classical heritage on his sleeve, and why not? Putting that heritage together with a potent American rhythm section can be an exciting collision of Old World jazz with New World jazz.
And so it is with Sentiana, Dedic’s third and latest album, featuring Yankee bassist Scott Colley and Pat Metheny’s prime drummer from Mexico City, Antonio Sanchez. The other distinction of Sentiana is that this is one that showcases Dedic’s aptitude for composing; ten of these eleven songs are his. Some people might expect a certain stuffiness from an Old World guy, but that doesn’t describe Dedic’. His playfulness often goes hand-in-hand with his pursuit of some choral notion or a good swift, knotted riff.
The touch he applies on “Sentiana” gives it superb flow with dramatic moments that bracket lithe progressions. Sometimes it feels like a classic ECM piano trio recording and other times Chick Corea. Regardless of what it evokes, it’s clear that Dedic’ has chops. Making good use of the immense talent, Colley’s taut, bouncy bass lines match the pianist’s own virtuosity and Sanchez solos underneath to power the trio right up to the conclusion.
“Coutlett” begins with quick-paced, stop/start action that can test the togetherness of any group, but these guys got this. Colley launches a solo early on, cooling down the hot start, and Dedic’s rapid right-hand runs are followed by Sanchez’s controlled rumbling. “Uncle M” is bop updated with plenty of modernity, Dedic swings with effusiveness, after which Colley solos with a few Sanchez asides tossed in. Still, the piano improvising on “Bremen” is the most tireless and stimulating of all.
Dedic & Co. stretch out the most on “Deep” a tune that’s classically inclined, dramatic, and floating without tempo, save for a couple of brief, rhumba type moments. It even slides into a brief free jazz excursion at one point.
A full half dozen of these performances are done by Dedic alone. “Green Dolphin Street” is treated well with a stately, European interpretation. Other solo pieces, like “Plan B” and “Helia” lay Dedic’s pretty, twisting melodies to bare, rendered with the flair and dexterity of a master concert pianist.
With heavy hitters like Antonio Sanchez and Scott Colley prominently headlined on the CD cover, perhaps a few more trio tracks and a couple less piano-only tracks could have made Sentiana live up to the billing a little better. Then again, it’s hard to argue against Dedic’s prowess as a solo performer, too. In either setting, he delivers the goods.
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