Magnetic Whale is the debut album from Luka Veselinovic’s Veselino Jazz Project. While Luka (who is Croatian) has played on many projects over the last ten years, this is his first released work as a band leader. Luka composed each song, and plays bass guitar on each recording; this six-song album was recorded during his time at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, and is a fantastic look into the state of jazz in music schools today, and of its life all around the world.
The album opens with its title track, instrumentation and precision quickly taking over the airwaves. The bass groove is impressive, creating quick rhythmic patterns even when playing softly. Vocals provide a nice touch early on in the song, and horns are introduced later, the result of the latter being remarkable. This is jazz, and this is musical freedom. ‘Just This’ follows with great tone and playing, with each instrument and note fitting just quite right in the mix. This song impressed me even more than the first with absolutely spectacular playing from each instrument. “Magnetic Whale” is recorded very well, each track conveying honest musicianship and attention to detail. ‘Mr. Newald’ turned things up a notch with an upbeat, expressionistic take on jazz, conjuring images of incredible jazz legends from decades past. This is certainly excellent music! All of the bass and horn runs were so precise and melodic, each octave matching intensity without clashing against each other. The drum patterns in this tune are especially intricate, and the piano solo is spot-on in every way.
‘Deep Skin’ began a new trend, taking the album down a more relaxed road. This song featured great vocals, complementing the piano nicely and tying the melody to the backing instrumentation well. The 7/8 time signature grooves, getting wild as the song moves on with accented notes and a great horn solo. It is then brought back to its roots, closing with the same vocal melody and rhythmic feel. ‘Endo Sanda Mama’ is the first and only track to feature guitar, and many more vocals than any of the previous compositions. The verse and verse melody stood out, but also the guitar’s weak tone. The playing is solid, but could have cut through better overall within the mix. This song’s slow groove repeats for a while, readying listeners for the closing track ‘Opatijiske Ostarije’. Luka’s unique bass tone and strong playing is especially showcased in the finale, which featured more vocals that were backed up nicely by the instrumentation.
There is no questioning Veselinovic’s performance, or his writing. “Magnetic Whale” is an outstanding look into the world of modern jazz. This album was in my opinion a tale of halves; the first half opened my eyes to the talent and composing power that Luka possesses, creating excellent songs in and of themselves. The final three songs showed me more about Luka’s attention to detail within songs; most commonly by closing and opening with similar hooks and creating absolutely beautiful patterns on the bass guitar when put in the spotlight. The musicianship and recording quality is far better than average, and is of true value to appreciative listeners. “Magnetic Whale” is highly recommended.