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Not only do very good musicians sound very good, they make others sound better. Paris-based Bosnian pianist Bojan Z provided tasty proof of that particular pudding several years ago when he joined drummer Karim Ziad on stage at the Jazz Sous Les Pommiers festival in Coutances, Normandy. More or less as soon as he hit the downbeat, the whole ambiance changed and a gig that had previously simmered started to cook.
Apart from such guest appearances, not to mention a lengthy tenure in Henry Texier's superb Azur Quintet, one of the best small groups in jazz of the 90s, monsieur Z has led several smart outfits himself. This latest international ensemble - American trombonist Josh Roseman, Scottish drummer Seb Rochford and Italian bassist Ruth Goller, the last two both longstanding London dwellers - keeps previous standards high.
Z has always been an eloquent composer and improviser, but as the Ziad guest spot demonstrated, he is also a rugged, aggressive player who invariably taps into the hot Balkan rhythms of his background. They meet a jazz sensibility through their lengthy, whirling lines and the ferocity of their swing, something that is taken to a bracing conclusion on Fuzzlija through the use of a vaguely drum'n'bass-style rhythm that keeps the energy relentlessly on the up. Apart from this articulate bluster, the album scores highly as far as its sonic palette is concerned, with Z supplementing a swish acoustic piano with a beautifully fuzzy Fender Rhodes and a homemade instrument, the xeonophone, that comprises parts of discarded electric pianos.
This unique instrument floods the air with waspish distortion that is conspicuous without being overpowering and enhances the dub implications of some tracks, particularly when Roseman, who has already proved his interest in Jamaican music by way of an engrossing tribute project to rocksteady legend Don Drummond, breaks up his trombone lines into fleeting, bass-heavy phrases. Although a few of its arrangements jolt from one section to another a touch too vigorously, Humus has a vivacious, danceable slant that potently underscores its elaborate architecture.