Biography

Biography

This new outing by the ZZ Quartet, co-led by guitarist Ratko Zjaca and accordionist Simone Zanchini, finds the intrepid improvisers and virtuosos on their respective instruments stretching and exploring in a live setting. Zjaca and Zanchini present an eclectic set of music that organically blends aspects of jazz, classical, folkloric, world music and rock, with just a touch of humor along the way from the fertile imaginations of these stellar improvisors. They succeeded in grand fashion on these two unforgettable October nights in 2019 at the Milestone Jazz Club and the Bologna Jazz Festival. From structured forms to sublime ballads to free flowing conversations on the bandstand, the ZZ Quartet speaks in a myriad of tongues on Midnight in Europe. – Bill Milkowski

Bill Milkowski is a regular contributor to Downbeat, Jazziz and Guitar Player in the United States as well as Jazzthing in Germany. He is also the author of “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius” and co-author of “Here And Now: The Autobiography of Pat Martino” and author of a biography of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.

This new CD by guitarist Ratko Zjaca’s New Organ Group featuring the great American drummer John Riley, Renato Chicco on Organ and Stefano Bedetti on Tenor Saxophone is full of creative, well conceived, and grooving original compositions by Ratko, and absolutely first rate playing from everyone! It’s a tightly knit group and his best record yet in my opinion, well produced as far as overall conception, and great sound too! Check it out! – Randy Brecker

The unexpected delight of hearing John Riley on this recording with an all-star assemblage of European musicians Ratko Zjaca Nocturnal Four only makes the listening experience sweeter. John sounds right at home, and the rest of the musicians sound like New Yorkers! I highly recommend this album. – Peter Erskine

I listened and really enjoyed this album. The collaboration of these four artists is brilliant and extremely well played. They are all musicians of the highest caliber. CD – Life on earth – Lenny White

“Passionate… lyrical… one of a kind with virtuoso performance, this is music that should be heard by all music lovers.” – Dave Liebman

“This recording reminds me how much fun a musical gathering can be. It’s good to recall that music, particularly improvised music, is rooted in dancing – the urge to shake that thing is universal, transcends all borders. We need music these days more than ever, and here’s just what the doctor ordered” – Steve Swallow

Once again I am pleased to hear that Ratko is continuing to carve his niche, as an important contributor to contemporary music. Enjoyable and inspiring. – Reggie Workman

Ratko’s new CD is full of great compositions played by a top notch band. With his lyrical playing, this makes for a most enjoyable listening experience. – John Abercrombie

Ratko put together a great band and found beautiful original compositions for us to play on… it was a very free session, musically speaking everyone played their hearts out. – Randy Brecker

Ratko presents a dynamic collection of jazz and attains something very rare indeed – a balance between body and soul. – Vernon Reid

My brother Mike thrived on originality, everything about him was different. He would have loved this CD which oozes originality and interaction at the highest level. These great musicians know how to LISTEN… this is just a stupendous effort… I really enjoyed it too! – Randy Brecker

Guitarist / Performer / Composer / Recording Artist / Educator

Ratko Zjaca is an award winning guitarist, composer and recording artist with many critically acclaimed recordings under his name has recorded and performed with some of the most influential musicians in jazz and modern improvised music. He is an innovative musician, who is widely recognized as a technically advanced guitarist. He is known for being a relentless individualist, which is evidenced in his improvisational style. Ratko has had a prolific and extensive session history as a recording guitarist having played on many released recordings. He is a highly versatile player covering many areas of music but is best known for his work in the modern jazz and improvisation idiom. Ratko has released a number of albums as leader and sideman.

Ratko Zjaca is considered a very gifted stylist, assumes many roles in his macrocosm of music: contemporary guitarist, composer, performer and educator. His unique musical vision absorbs and reflects all manner of music while retaining an enviable individualism and high quality craftsmanship that can span from quiet intimacy to searing intensity. Diverse musical backgrounds, which include jazz, world music, and free improvisation. He has been working on original compositions  as well as crafting beautiful and haunting improvisations. He invented a unique style that is fearless, ambitious and volatile. He studied and graduated from Zagreb University. In his drive for the necessary knowledge and the enormous need for studies he sought his refuge in The Netherlands at the Rotterdam Conservatory. There he could get teachings by well-known masters. He also followed masterclasses and personal courses with Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Bob Brookmayer, John Abercrombie, Mick Goodrick, Hariprasad Chaurasia and others.

Unlike some of his colleagues Ratko is not focusing only on saxophone phraseologies, but is continuously expanding the guitar’s vocabulary within today’s world of music. Whilst improving his performance to create his typical own sound and style, Ratko as a gifted teacher with a loaded teaching schedule, is capable of transposing most advanced phrases and concepts into structures, suitable for every musician. He gives master classes all around the world for guitar and fretless guitar, in countries like Slovenia, the Netherlands, France, Croatia and the United States.

After completing his study at the Rotterdam Conservatory where he studied jazz guitar, composition and Indian classical music, he also studied at New York University School of Music. He started to work with own group and with American trumpet veteran Benny Bailey group. Ratko participated at many international festivals and has been booked for the major club dates at the European and American scene. Ratko has constantly made major efforts to enrich his experience with appearances and recordings. He was also performing and recording with Benny Bailey, Gary Peacock, Reggie Workman, John Patitucci, Al Foster, Jimmy Cobb, Steve Gadd, Antonio Sanchez, John Riley, Alvin Queen, Ron Carter, Randy Brecker, Miroslav Vitous, Jeff Tain Watts, Adam Nussbaum, Kirk Lightsey, Simone Zancini, Anders Bergcrantz, Shawnn Monteiro, Denise Jannah, Renato Chicco, Stefano Bedetti, etc.

In April 2000 Ratko recorded “A Day in Manhattan” in New York with members of John Coltrane and Miles Davis rhythm section, Reggie Workman and Al Foster.

Ratko is currently composing music and working on a new world music project on which he plays baritone, sitar, fretless, soprano, electric and acoustic guitars – this will be the second part of his previous record Shades of Spirit, Fretless Guitar Project.

Ratko started a new quartet with the legendary bass player and composer Miroslav Vitous.

Ratko released a quartet recording, Crossing The Border, in New York City with John Patitucci, Al Foster and Stan Mitrovic, with all original compisitions of all members of the quartet.

Ratko released a new record, Continental Talk, with John Patitucci, Steve Gadd, Randy Brecker and Stan Mitrovic.

He just released a new CD “The Way We Talk” with Simone Zanchini, Adam Nussbaum and Martin Gjakonovski.

“Now and Then” is Ratko’s latest CD with his favourite musicians: Miroslav Vitous, John Patitucci, Reggie Workman, Al Foster, Randy Brecker and others.

A new CD of the ZZ Quartet, “Beyond The Lines”, on In+Out Records is out now.

A new CD “Don’t Try This Anywhere” is out now – Ratko with Simone Zanchini, Adam Nussbaum, John Patitucci and Stefano Bedetti.

The CD “Don’t Try This Anywhere” has won the Orpheus Award for 2016 – the best Italian production 2015 for jazz music.

Ratko received the award for authorship and artistic creation in jazz music from the Croatian Composer Society 2019.

Ratko received the European discography award for the artistic creation in jazz music from Nisville Jazz Festival Organization 2021.

A new CD “Life on Earth” is out now – Ratko with Antonio Sanchez, Stefano Bedetti and Renato Chicco.

A new CD “Light in the World” – Ratko, with John Riley, Stefano Bedetti and Renato Chicco is out now.

A new CD “The places you will go” – Ratko with John Patitucci, Miroslav Vitous, Reggie Workman, John Riley, Antonio Sanchez, Adam Nussbaum, Steve Gadd, Al Foster, Simone Zanchini, Stefano Bedetti and others is out now.

Ratko performs on handcrafted guitars made by Chris Mirabella.

Ratko endorses Godin Guitars.

Ratko uses CP-1A pickups for acoustic guitar from Carlos Juan.

Ratko Zjaca is nominated for best guitarist and musician in South American El Intruso New Creative Music Criticts Poll Award for 2010 by an international vote of journalists.