Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Last night was another great event in the Croatian American Center's innovative new concert series, Culture at the Crossroads.

This event showcased San Francisco jazz artist Milla Milojkovic, and her tamburasi accompanists - Danny Ovanin, Ryan Werner, Adis Sirbubalo, and Steve Ovanin -- who flew in from Chicago for the evening.

Tamburitza-jazz fusion. Are you kidding? Sounds unlikely, but it works, thanks to unbelievably talented artists, with Balkan rhythms flowing through their blood, and to vision of series curator John Daley.

Milla put together a set alternating the tamburitza melodies she grew up with, sung in Croatian, with the jazz standards she is so well known for. Her smoky contralto carried us from the Ellington classic Caravan to the Romany favorite Jelem Jelem to Whatever Lola/Milla Wants to to Besame mucho in Spanish and Croatian to My Heart Belongs to Daddy, a loving tribute to her father who sat in the audience.

Milla was born into the musical culture of the Bay Area Balkan community. She was singing and playing piano and tamburitza by the time she was five. She went on to study at the Manhattan Conservatory of Music and earned her degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. As a Milla groupie, I've been following her jazz performances throughout the Bay Area. I find those sentimental old songs in her throaty voice absolutely irresistible.

I thought she had found her musical home with jazz standards, but this concert broke new ground. Milla understands the music so well -- the jazz and the Balkan melodies -- that she can move seamlessly from one tradition to the other, keeping the essence of each rhythm and melody and language, and at the same time making it all her own.

And Milla's on-stage style makes the audience feel like favored guests in her home. Don't be surprised if you get a hug from Milla if you attend her performance!

Definitely an emerging artist to follow.


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