Pianist Maja Alvanovic, bassist Ervin Malina, and drummer Istvan Cik, known together as the Majamisty TriO, forge a path through the jazz landscape every bit as thoughtful as any of their European contemporaries. Alvanonic draws on her classical foundations—this debut was indeed reissued by Maple Grove Music Productions, a classical outfit out of the band’s native Serbia—for an intensely lyrical, at times somber, but ever-gorgeous sound.
All of the tunes on Mistyland owe origin to Alvanovic’s pen, except for the Brazilian-flavored “Happy Love Song” (by her father Blaza Alvanovic) and Errol Garner’s evergreen “Misty,” which at her fingertips becomes a piece of exponential crystal, with two beginnings for every ending. Crafting bright, optimistic melodies is Alvanovic’s strong suit, as is clear in “Landscape.” The album’s opener combines the gentle propulsions of her keyboarding with a wing-clipped rhythm section. Much of what follows is similarly evocative, throwing heads back in the revelry of clever rhythm changes and turns of phrase. Heartfelt ballads (“She Said…”) share breath with the minor-inflected curls of “The Tear” toward locomotive destinations (“Tuesday”), traversing airbrushed borders between waking and sleeping along the way. This emotional Rubik’s cube is at one moment sweeping and cinematic (“With You”), the next decidedly classical in scope, as in the Satie-esque “Waltz for Sofija.”
Alvanovic’s compositions, however, further allow the album’s only questionable inclusion: that of guest vocalist Aleksandra Drobac, who treats her voice like a fourth instrument, wordless and melodic, in tracks such as “Lullaby for Iva” and “Red Like.” As lovely as her voice is on its own, it adds little to the trio’s already-verdant sound, making it feel rather like an impressionist rendering every single leaf of a tree when only a few indicative strokes are needed. That said, after a few listens it becomes easier to feel Drobac’s colors blending into the rest, so that by then they begin to seem parts of the whole.
Improvisationally speaking, this is by no means a risky album, but in that respect provides vast comfort through its artful virtuosity. Alvanovic and her bandmates hold their own in an industry flooded with trios. Their vessel sails true with an attention to melodic detail known well by ECM listeners, for whom Mistyland might very well constitute a positive discovery.
(To preview the entire album, click on over to the band’s website here.)