Pianist, arranger and composer Gordan Spasovski is out with a new CD called “Light Pillar” that brings glints of sun into all corners of a room. Eight sizzling tracks describe the freedom of a steady tempo, the value of space and air, and the music of spoken words. “Outside of Time” is a linguistic approach with scenic chord colorings on piano. The shimmer of “The Dance of the Rifflebird” falls into an easy groove with an easily loved melody, and “Contentment” thoughtfully dances on the keyboard. “Burning Sands” has a nice fat range to admire with pacing that keeps the drums (brilliant and complex) busy.
When did you learn piano and what happened that helped you decide to go into jazz?
I started playing piano when I was 11 and my first encounter with jazz music was around the age of 18. There was a jam session after a concert I’ve visited and one of the players invited me to join them. After that, I immediately tried to find someone who could show me the way because I just loved how the band interacted with me, even though I was just trying to “survive.” It was a totally new experience for me.
A year after that, I started taking lessons with my first jazz mentor, Ilija Pejovski, who showed me the ways of the great jazz players like Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Michel Petrucciani, etc. Then I started my jazz studies in Graz, Austria, under the mentorship of the great pianist Olaf Polziehn.
Besides jazz which is my main influence, certain musical elements can be linked with Macedonian traditional and classical music. The compositions are inspired by different temporal musical experiences, each one with a unique touch.
From music of the Beatles to covering Charlie Parker, how do your eclectic tastes inspire you?
I try to find inspiration in every genre, from traditional to classical music. The Beatles’ project that we’ve performed with the ZJM Big Band conducted by Sigi Fiegl was a great example of how one can take a rock song recorded by a four-piece rock band and rearrange it for a big band, as the great Alan Baylock did. But nothing compares to the inspiration from the jazz giants as Bill Evans, Hank Jones, McCoy Tyner, Fred Hersch, Cannonball Adderley, Duke Ellington…
What were a few of your favorite collaborations?
It’s hard to choose a few. I always enjoy playing with different musicians. I would say that some of the collaborations that inspired me the most were with The Cuckoo Rack Quintet, the great vocal John I. Apelgren, and The ZJM Big Band collaboration with the jazz tenor saxophonist Don Menza.
What festivals did you enjoy the most and why?
My favorite is “Today it’s All About Jazz” organized by The Association of Jazz Musicians and artists in Macedonia because there are often familiar faces in the audience, and it’s a unique type of connection with them. Also, I love Italian festivals. I played at Trieste Jazz Festival and Venice Jazz Festival with the Backyard Jazz Orchestra and there was great energy with the audience. It was a memorable experience for me, as a young jazz musician at the time, to get that type of response from the people that were present.
How did you meet your current trio and what do they bring to the overall sound?
I met Kiril, the bass player, on a jam session when I was still in high school. He played a concert with Ivan Ivanov Quartet at Astibo Jazz Festival and they opened the session afterward. At that time, he was studying at the jazz department in Graz, Austria, in the university that I also enrolled in a couple of years later. Since then, we became great friends and colleagues. I met Viktor a little later during our studies. We started playing together back in 2015 and I think we helped each other in the musical growth that led to a great friendship. These guys are glorious musicians, so I’m overjoyed that we all work together.
What was production like for this new album and how were you affected by the lockdown?
The album was recorded by Bojan Filipovski at Knobs, Keys ’n Stuff studio, and mixed and mastered by Angel Kjosev at The Basement Studios. The label behind this project is ZJM Records, as their second music release. Having the exquisite jazz singer John I. Apelgren (with whom I’ve had many musical collaborations) reciting a poem by the great Macedonian poet Nikola Madzirov is truly refreshing. The artwork was done by Robert Cvetkovski and Kirila Cvetkovska.
It was a difficult period for all the musicians around the world, but regardless of the situation, I tried to find ways to be productive and musically involved. This year has allowed me to spend more time with my instrument, as well as improving my composing, arranging and orchestration skills.
Which track was the most fun to record and why?
I think that would be “Burning Sands.” We did a couple of takes on it and they all had a different structure and a specific vibe, even though some of them weren’t really successful. It’s an energetic composition that doesn’t look so difficult at first sight, but it’s not easy to get a story out of it. Maybe it’s because it has a hint of the great McCoy Tyner and metaphorically said, his figure is always standing above us.
How did you bring these tracks together- do they stand as a story being told or are they different experiences?
Every song revolves around a different experience, but they’re all linked together, brought as a whole, with the ‘light pillar’ as a symbol that drives my musical creation. The compositions are musical material that I gathered through the years, and I tried to choose the right ones that would fit this album.
Where are you based and what is the jazz scene doing right now?
I’m based in Skopje, Macedonia, and as we all know the last year wasn’t the best for musicians around the globe, including my country. But still in the spring and during the summertime we tried to organize and play some concerts, as much as we can following the COVID-19 protocols. There are many jazz festivals with a constantly growing reputation, like “Today it’s all about jazz” organized by The Association of Jazz Musicians and Artists in Macedonia, Skopje Jazz Festival and many more. Also, we have some jazz clubs that hopefully will continue with their jazz live performances.
For more information visit https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/gordanspasovski/light-pillar.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
© 2021 Debbie Burke