Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Duško Gojković - Swinging Macedonia (1966)

Sometimes the music takes its time to reach the destination. I got this album at least five years ago, gave it a cursory listen and shelved it. Just recently I put it on again, not even sure why, and discovered how great it was.
Duško Gojković, a trumpet/flugelhorn player, composer and bandleader, was born and spent his youth in former Yugoslavia. After rising to prominence as a trumpet virtuoso, he is leading a truly cosmopolitan life. He moved to Germany, spent considerable time in the US, both studying at Berklee and playing with many of the major jazz figures, and now resides in Munich and plays all over Europe.
Swinging Macedonia was recorded in Germany with american sidemen, including Mal Waldron on piano, but the focus here is on Dusko's own compositions that attempt to fuse the sensibility of Balkan music with jazz. Several elements are at play here: most obvious are, of course, the skewed rhythms of 5/4 and 9/4 that are native to the dances of southeastern Europe - Romanian, Macedonian, and gypsy music. Macedonia and The Nights of Skopje are written in 5/4. Secondly, it's the modal harmonic elements: Saga Se Karame (later recorded as Slavic Mood) is built on Phrygian; Balkan Blue and Macedonia are modal tunes. Finally, there are structural elements; very few of the tunes utilize the AABA form so ubiquitous in jazz. American jazz was already experimenting with many of these features - odd meters of Take Five and Don Ellis recordings, modal music etc., but here they are very naturally fused into a single unity, the first recording of what later became known "Balkan jazz". Another reason why this fusion sounds so organic is that brass instruments are very prominent in the real southeast European ethnic music - just look at the gypsy brass orchestras.
I truly love this album: the tunes are catchy, the playing is top-notch, the rhythm section grooves and the solos burn - I can listen to it daily for a month and never get tired.

The serbian spelling is Duško Gojković; on his american releases it is spelled at least two different ways: Gojkovic or Goykovich. He is still active both performing and recording; I have not heard his recent releases but apparently the critics love them. I did hear Belgrade Blues, which compiles his recordings made in early sixties, before this album, and they are more of a straightforward jazz - proficient, but not as impressive.

Bio and interview


Dusko Goykovich - Swinging Macedonia (1966)
Available here, here, here, and here.
1. Macedonia
2. Old Fisherman's Daughter
3. Jumbo Uganda
4. The Gypsy
5. Macedonian Fertility Dance
6. Bem-Basha
7. Saga Se Karame
8. Wedding March of Alexander the Macedonian
9. The Nights of Skopje
10. Balkan Blue