Concert Review: Bojan Zulfikaspic & Julien Lourau @ Senate Garage, 10/19/2023

Some readers might swear that I select concerts to review based on their long-winded titles or the musicians’ names. Bojan Zulfikapašić (whom I’ll refer to as Bojan Z) and Julien Lourau, both hailing from France, are making their inaugural visit to North America. Their limited tour in NYC and Kingston was arranged by NYC restaurateur and jazz enthusiast Stefan Jonot. Both artists have been fixtures on the European music scene for many years, collaborating for over two decades.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Though Bojan Z. is French, he’s an immigrant from Serbia with a mastery of the keyboards. Julien, a Paris native, skillfully plays the tenor and soprano saxophones. Their music distinctly deviates from the familiar realms of post-bop, swing, or gypsy jazz. Whether performing acoustically or with electronic augmentation, they captivated the audience with their entrancing melodies.

Their set commenced with the echoes of a tenor sax, transitioning between acoustic renditions and those complemented by electronically-modified keyboards, culminating in a rich, full sound.

Like many jazz virtuosos, both musicians exploited their instruments’ full range to craft their soundscapes. The piano’s cover transformed into a hand drum, its strings plucked to rhythmic perfection. In an enigmatic feat, both the tenor and soprano saxophones emitted tunes without the touch of lips to the mouthpiece.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Bojan delved into their philosophy of composition and musical selection, which hinges on a contrarian method: they first determine what not to play. Their performances, heavily influenced by Middle Eastern and Eastern European music, film scores, and impressionism, were interlaced with homages to American jazz.

One piece disrupted the air with a jarring, atonal start, seamlessly transitioning into post-bop with Julien delivering riffs that would not be out of place in a Blue Note recording or any NYC jazz club.

The electronic keyboards emitted tones and bell-like notes evocative of the ’70s, while the soprano sax echoed these sounds, its tone and articulations harkening to the style of the late Joe Farrell.

Photo by Rudy Lu

Another piece felt like an auditory journey through a silent film, abundant with ragtime influences. The introduction of the soprano saxophone added a new, vibrant character.

Arabic rhythms reverberated from the piano cover and strings, morphing into a discernible melody before reverting to rhythmic cadences, all encapsulated in a composition entitled “Full Half Moon.”

The confluence of sounds from these two gifted musicians culminated in an evening of unconventional, potent, yet exquisitely beautiful music. I earnestly hope this duo graces our presence once more.

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