Guitarist Rale Micic’s second album, Serbia, features cozy melodies in intimate settings that spotlight their lyrical ardor. (The only dissonance the album produces is the cognitive dissonance between the Serbia of CNN and Serbia’s mostly contemplative music.) The great Tom Harrell’s name graces the CD cover, and he contributes some hushed, imaginative solos on trumpet and flugelhorn, but this is Micic’s show; he wrote eight of the 10 tracks and transcribed a Serb folk song for another.
With Bob Reynolds on tenor sax, Sean Conly on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums, the ensemble creates a warm but light sound in which Micic’s guitar can always be heard. The horns of Harrell and Reynolds intertwine memorably on tunes like “Song for Alma,” while Micic and Conly play off each other’s plucks with great delicacy, especially when trading the roles of soloist and accompanist on Conly’s composition “Far From Home.”
A few tracks push the tempo, notably the mercurial, surprise-filled “Lucky Number,” but mostly the music gains in drama when it becomes slower and quieter—the gorgeous “By Your Side” features a breathtaking moment in which Reynolds plays the autumnal theme in the barest possible whisper under Micic’s aching solo.