Vesna’s music provokes tastes, it disturbs stereotypes about the boundaries between genres, but it also dazzles with its flair and its quirky inventiveness. One cannot but be captivated by her aptitude to alternate effortlessly between styles: from the swing drive of a standard to the groove of a pop tune, from the intimacy of a ballad to the boundlessness of free improvisation. Throughout all this, Vesna excels in bringing out the full contrasts of the voice: from soft, almost shy, to powerful and assertive, from joyful to dark and brooding, from capricious and risky to masterful and controlled. And if both her manner and her means of expression evoke diversity, Vesna’s approach to music-making is no less a synthesis of the heterogeneous. There is something coldly inquisitive, almost detective-like in her treatment of musical material – with a minute analysis of the elements at hand – but there is also a playfulness and a heightened sense of passion, a lively deconstruction which leaves one instantly affected.
Born in 1978 in Brčko in what was then Yugoslavia and growing up in the towns of Požega and Zagreb, Vesna was immersed in music from an early age: through formal education in flute, through youthful experiments in punk-rock, through a rigorous study of vocal techniques, and, even more distantly, through a degree in phonetics and linguistics at the University of Zagreb. And yet her route to jazz and improvised music seems quite circuitous. At the age of twenty, Vesna embarked on a path of stardom in the popular music industry in Croatia, releasing five commercial albums which reached golden or platinum sales, performing uncountable concerts, appearing in numerous live broadcasts, even competing at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2002. However, an encounter with the music of the free jazz artist Peter Brötzmann in a Berlin club would turn this experience around. Enchanted by such intensity and expressive freedom, Vesna decided to devote herself to the study of jazz, enrolling at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague and earning a Master’s degree in musical performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Along this path, she studied and collaborated with some eminent musical educators and performers, including Jay Clayton, Barry Harris, Rachel Gould, Ameral Gunson, Judy Niemack, Eleanor Forbes, Martin Hathaway, Francesco Angiuli, Stephan Weeke, Matija Dedić, Saša Nestorović and many others.
“With Suspicious Minds” is Vesna’s debut release in jazz and improvised music. Enveloping the music of Elvis Presley in a deconstructive musical adventure, this is not an Elvis cover album, but a singular work standing on its own. One is sure to discover the familiar rock’n’roll and pop melodies in forms and at places the least expected, as they become elements in a broader language of musical improvisation – a language built on contrasts, surprises and reversals.
“With Suspicious Minds” also reflects the exploratory spirit of the contemporary Berlin music scene, with Vesna being joined here by three exceptional Berlin-based musicians: Gerhard Gschlößl, an award-winning jazz trombonist and composer originally hailing from Bavaria, the incredibly versatile Australian drummer and performance artist Steve Heather, as well as Clayton Thomas on double-bass, a Tasmanian native who is becoming a rising presence on the European scene of free-improvised music.