upcoming NYC show Sunday, August 13th, 2017 @ Rockwood Music Hall 7 pm Tickets
One of the most versatile, skilled, and curious musicians in Chicago, guitarist Goran Ivanovic has built a career built upon exploration. Born and raised in Croatia, he was in the midst of studying at the prestigious Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria with masters like Elliot Fisk and Joaquin Clerch when his parents were expelled in the late 90s; the family was granted asylum in the US and they settled in Chicago.
Since his arrival he’s displayed a deep interest in collaboration, steadily expanding his stylistic range well beyond the European classical music and Balkan sounds he was fluently versed in when he arrived. These days his repertoire not only incorporates those disciplines but jazz and flamenco as well.
He’s recorded duet albums with the great Pakistani-Chilean jazz guitarist Fareed Haque as well as Greek-American musician Andreas Kapsalis. He’s a key member of the quartet Eastern Blok with Matt Ulery, Doug Rosenberg, and Michael Caskey, a combo that deftly surveys the folk music of Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia in a distinctly jazz-oriented context, embroidering timeless Balkan melodies and rhythms with sophisticated improvisational gambits.
Most recently, Ivanovic released an eponymous trio album with bassist Ulery and percussionist Pete Tashjian where he’s achieved a stunning assimilation of his many influences, creating a hybrid all his own. Reviewing the new album for All About Jazz, Budd Kopman wrote, “It is easy to get lost in Ivanovic’s technique, especially if one plays (or attempts to play) Classical style guitar, in a jazz style or not.” The trio’s agility has also been noted. As Jeff Elbel wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times, “The trio are recognized for their individual virtuosity, but they show particular excellence as a unit able to stop on a dime and twist gracefully through the trickiest hairpin turns together on local stages.”
Below is our interview with Goran.
Tell us how you started playing guitar?
I started young at 6. My dad was a musician so lots of guitars at the house. Other kids played with toys and I played with the guitar. More fun
What are musical and nonmusical influences that inspire your music?
Definitely lot of guitar music growing up. Andres Segovia, Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin then I got into jazz and listened to Keith Jarret a lot then Miles, Herbie.
What intersections between European Classical and Balkan music have you found?
For me, its important to have a solid structure in terms of composing .the influences and elements can change and that’s all good. I am not a traditional folk musician so I use Balkan motifs in a contemporary classical way.
How did you discover flamenco and jazz?
Mostly through Paco de Lucia then I just kept discovering more amazing players. Same with Jazz. I checked out Miles Davis then got into Coltrane and Bill Evans.
And how do you incorporate them into your music?
I do it in my way. I don’t like to be obvious when I present my work. It has to sound like me first the way I hear this music and process it.
You have worked with Pakistani-Chilean jazz guitarist, Fareed Haque. How did that come about?
I was a big fan of Fareed’s and came up to him and said I wanted to study with him. He said no you’d be terrible student lets just play together instead.
How did your work change because of it?
Well I saw someone who was using Jazz as a structure and putting elements of Indian folk on top and it worked. So I started doing the same.
How did you and Mike and Pete meet?
Trough the Chicago Jazz Scene.
What does each member of the trio contribute and how do you each stand out?
Its always about music and tunes first. The trio is very personal for all of us. Yes, I wrote the music but they have to make it their own if we wanna sound great.
What makes performing in NYC different?
Its harder to find parking? NYC is always great energy. I always feel great playing clubs there.
Where do you like performing the most?
I like variety. Sometimes the dive bars are the most fun. I do festivals, concert halls a lot.
Before you go on stage or in the studio what is your go to track to get you in the mood/inspire you?
Just quiet time before the show.
If you were not an artist what would be doing as your alternative career?
Do you get star struck? Who would you still love to work with?
I used to but not anymore. Just try to play my music best I can. Would love to work with Egberto Gismonti someday.
What embarrassing songs might I find on your iTunes/ Spotify?