Double Time: Two Tasty New CDs from Ratko Zjaca

Two new works by guitarist Ratko Zjaca (interviewed earlier here) are almost too much of a treat at once. Not only is his instrumentation firmly in that perfect Goldilocks zone; his melodic lines are uncluttered, tempos tight but unobtrusive, and the phrasing flows like a river.

Consider the sensibility of a meandering soul (“Here Nothing Begins”); the depth and mystery in “La Caldera De Taburiente” and hopping grooves (“Twilight Time Again”). The tracks have a great swing feel, stellar percussion and a smooth-skating texture from Hammond.

How would you compare “Life on Earth” and “Light in the World”?

I really like both albums and it’s not easy to compare but I think on “Life on Earth” we played more mellow and very lyrical, and the new “Light in the World” group takes a forward step playing more open and more out of our comfort zone.

Inspiration for each?

The whole concept of my new Nocturnal Four band, with the line-up of guitars/saxophone/Hammond organ/drums, dates from my youth. Records in that format were very influential in my growing up as a musician.

After many years of playing and recording in various combinations with my projects where no Hammond organ was represented, I often found that combination in my head. Several years ago I was recording an album with Stefano Bedetti on saxophone and then I had a tour with Renato Chicco on Hammond; I realized this was the perfect setting for my future project which I called “The Trilogy.”

After the successful first album “Life on Earth,” recorded with the phenomenal Antonio Sanchez, one of the best of today’s drummers, the second album “Light in the World” has just been released with the legendary drummer John Riley, one of the best American drummers.

Describe your creative process.

For me, it’s just constant work on myself as a person and a musician.

I’m huge fan of music, traveling and also studying art and psychology. These have a huge influence on my music and my life in all segments: emotional, spiritual and intellectual.

I write music often, and when I get an idea for a new recording I need to know who will play with me and take responsibility that this particular group of musicians will sound good together. To write the music I need to have the selection of musicians in my mind.

Over the last 20 years throughout my discography there has always been a high level of musicians on my recordings. I love to play with musicians who have a strong identity. They inspire me when we play together.

For more information, visit

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Ratko Zjaca.
(c) Debbie Burke 2020

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