Belgrade Blues is a reissue of two different recordings by Yugoslavian trumpet sensation Duško Gojkovic from the 1960s. The first is of the Duško Gojkovic International Jazz Octet, a mid-tempo affair from 1961 that walks a wavering line between the hard bop that was so prevalent in American jazz at the time and the West Coast jazz that had begun to lose its luster in critical and popular circles. With the exception of one Gojkovic original to close the album, the rest of the program is a collection of standards and bop tunes, including a very fine rendition of Max Roach's "Mr. X" and two interesting workouts by the group's pianist, Francy Boland. Gojkovic's playing throughout walks that line between Miles Davis and Art Farmer and, as an improviser, he swings hard and close to the vest. The other set, by the Duško Gojkovic Sextet featuring Sal Nistico and Carl Fontana, is comprised of only four tunes and was originally issued in 1966. Here the mood is hipper, deeper, and more modal, yet full of accessible swinging post-bop. The arrangements are wonderfully tight and allow the soloists to breathe a bit more. Of the four selections, only "Belgrade Blues" was written by a band member, pianist Nate Pierce; the rest are minor standards like "Talk of the Town," "Wee," and "Be My Love." The band members blow hard enough and, for the time, must have stunned Yugoslavian audiences with their approximations of American Blue Note artists -- they may have even turned some eyebrows in L.A. or San Francisco, but never in New York. The playing is strictly journeyman. This set is interesting as history, but little more.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek