PJEV, Kit Downes, Hayden Chisholm: Medna Roso

Multi-national assembly uses organ, alto saxophone, shruti box, synth, throat-singing and a cappella vocals to jazz Balkan traditional songs


We have long been in a time when we should never be surprised by the kinds of fusion that jazz or near-jazz offers us, so why shouldn’t there be a collaboration between a choir specialising in the traditional songs of the Balkans, a British jazz pianist devoting his talents to the organ and a New Zealand saxophonist bringing throat-singing to the mix?

This example of the hybrid features the a capella vocal quintet PJEV, Kit Downes and Hayden Chisholm (the latter now resident in Zagreb, where he met PJEV director Jovana Lukic and the project started). It was recorded in a Cologne church (Agneskirche) as part of the Cologne Jazz Week Festival in 2021.

The amalgamation may not be to everyone’s taste but there is no denying the impassioned delivery, and the tight-knit harmonies offered by the choir give the listener something to conjure with. So might the lyrics, all performed in the languages of the Balkans, but they are here translated into English in the accompanying booklet.

Kit Downes’ comments after the event indicate that this became a fulfilling personal experience and his contribution on the church’s organ will be appreciated by those with ears for such things. Perhaps Hayden Chisholm’s role is less obvious but the different voicings he brings to the whole are important to the overall picture.

Introduction; Listaj Goro Ne Zali Be’ara; Interlude 1; Ova Brda I Puste Doline; Interlude II; Sto Si Setna, Nevesela; Oj, Djevojko, Janje Umiljato; Interlue III; Medna Rosa, Gdje Si Zimovala; Interlude IV; Od Kad Nismo Zapjevale; Interlude V; Sluzbu Sluzi Viden Dober Junak; Interlude VI; Licki Ojkan (40.48)
PJEV: Jovana Lukic (director), Zvezdana Ostojic, Gloria Lindeman, Lana Hosni, Julijana Lesic (v); Kit Downes (org); Hayden Chisholm (as, shruti box, syn, throat singing). Cologne, 1 September 2021.
Red Hook Records RH1003