Nocturnal Four

Nocturnal Four

Ratko Zjaca – guitar
Stefano Bedetti – sax
Renato Chicco – organ
John Riley – drums

The collaboration between four outstanding artists forms a peerless combination of sax, guitar, organ and drums. The result is stunning in terms of sound and arrangement experimented with rhythmic ideas, texture and space impressed by the artists’ enthusiasm, passion, intensity and warmth. An inspiring, enjoyable, powerhouse of original compositions and standards.

Ratko Zjaca

While respecting the harmonic contours and deeply ingrained melodies of those oft-covered tunes, and others presented here on Archtop Avenue, Zjaca puts his own personal stamp on them through reharmonization, subtle rhythmic shifts and improvisational flights Recording each track with a different archtop guitar, he interprets these beloved standards, and a few originals, with taste and invention. Always mindful of addressing the bass line while delivering rich chord voicings and spinning fluid melody lines, he strikes a delicate balancing act on these 12 tunes from Archtop Avenue. Archtop Avenue is a compelling addition to the canon of solo guitar and a crowning achievement in Zjaca’s career to date.

Bill Milkowski – Jazz critic, journalist, biographer

In this wonderful album, Ratko shares songs from the Great American Songbook and original compositions played with skill and feeling. The music is offered with a genuine reverence and a connection to the heart of the player. That is a rare and beautiful gift. Played without any hint of showing off, Ratko presents these beautiful melodies as food to be savored. This is beautiful music to use as a soundtrack for life. Sit back and relax and let the sounds take you away.

Rodney Jones – Guitarist/Composer/Educator – NYC, May 2023

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

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

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 is considered a very gifted stylist, assumes many roles in his macrocosm of music: contemporary guitarist, composer, performer etc. Born in Croatia, Ratko in his early days was attracted by the sound of the guitar, both subversive sounds like those produced by Jimi Hendrix and from the classics like Bach and van Beethoven. 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, famous for its studies of modern music. There he could get teachings by well-known masters. He also followed masterclasses and personal courses with Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny, Mick Goodrick, Mike Stern, Bob Brookmayer, John Abercrombie 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, he also studied at New York University School of Music. He started to work with own group and with American trumpet veteran Benny Bailey. 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, Randy Brecker, Gary Peacock, Reggie Workman, John Pattituci, Al Foster, Steve Gadd, Antonio Sanchez, John Riley, Miroslav Vitous, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Jeff Tain Watts, Alvin Queen, Adam Nussbaum, Shawn Monteiro, Denise Jannah, Simone Zanchini, James Cammack, Renato Chicco, Stefano Bedetti etc.

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.

In 2021 Ratko with ZZ quartet released a double live album “Midnight in Europe” and in 2023 released a solo guitar album “Archtop Avenue”.
Both albums received excellent reviews all over the world.

Ratko endorses Mirabella Guitars.

Ratko endorses Godin Guitars.

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

Ratko Zjaca is nominated for best jazz guitarist in South American El Intruso New Creative Music Critics Poll Award for 2010.

The CD “Don’t try this anywhere” has won the Orpheus Award for 2016 – the best Italian production 2015 for jazz music.

Selected Discography

  • Ratko Zjaca Nocturnal Mission Quartet
  • “The Bag is Packed” – Benny Bailey Group
  • Ratko Zjaca Quartet live jazz festival
  • “A Day in Manhattan” – Ratko Zjaca, Reggie Workman, Al Foster
  • “Live” – Reggie Workman and Jim Cobb Sextet
  • “Shades of Spirit”, Fretless Guitar Project – Ratko Zjaca and Stanislav Mitrovic
  • “Crossing The Border” – Ratko Zjaca, Stan Mitrovic, John Pattituci, Al Foster
  • “Continental Talk” – Ratko Zjaca, John Patitucci, Steve Gadd, Stan Mitrovic, Randy Brecker
  • “The Way We Talk” – Ratko Zjaca, Simone Zanchini, Adam Nussbaum, Martin Gjakonovski
  • “Now and Then” – Ratko Zjaca with Simone Zanchini, Miroslav Vitous, John Patitucci, Reggie Workman, Adam Nussbaum, Steve Gadd, Al Foster and others
  • “Beyond the Lines” – Ratko Zjaca, Simone Zanchini, Adam Nussbaum, Martin Gjakonovski
  • “Don’t try this anywhere” – Ratko Zjaca with Simone Zanchini, John Patitucci, Adam Nussbaum and Stefano Bedetti
  • “Life on Earth” – Ratko Zjaca, Antonio Sanchez, Stefano Bedetti and Renato Chicco
  • “Light in the World” – Ratko Zjaca, John Riley, Stefano Bedetti and Renato Chicco
  • “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.
  • “Midnight in Europe” – Live, Ratko with Simone Zanchini, Adam Nussbaum and Martin Gjakonovski
  • “Archtop Avenue” – Solo guitar album

Stefano Bedetti

“Keep in mind this name, he is one of the most interesting saxophone players of recent years.” – Fabrizio Bosso

Stefano Bedetti is a self-taught musician who began to play tenor saxophone at the age of 14. He discovered jazz music listening to records of Charlie Parker and Michael Brecker. A little later many other jazz masters start to catch his attention, like John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Cannonball Adderley, Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt and all the other great of that era, introducing him in a new dimension of practicing and thinking about the music.

At the age of 19 Giulio Capiozzo (famous italian drummer, co-founder of well-known group Area) was the first to notice his talent and invite Stefano in his group.

The “Area” was an international group founded in the middle of the 70 joined by Giulio Capiozzo on drums, Ares Tavolazzi on bass, Patrizio Fariselli on keyboard and piano and Demetrio Stratos, the great vocalist famous for the complex and original way to use the voice at that time. For him this was one of the first experience in a recording studio. The album is “Chernobyl 7991” and the group was joined as special guest by the great Jimmy Clark.

Starting from 1995 Stefano also begins to play with the famous European group Jestofunk, toured with them all round the world for ten years and took part in numerous jazz festivals. Stefano played on three remarkable disks of the group: Universal Mother, Love in a black dimension, Jestofunk Live.

In 2004 another important meeting: Stefano joined the Marco Tamburini Quintet featuring Billy Hart on drums and Cameron Brown on bass.

Stefano formed his own quartet in 2005 and released his first disk as a leader in 2007: “The Bright Side of the Moon”. And is right at that moment that Stefano has proved himself not only as a world class player but also as a gifted composer. The record enjoyed rave reviews from critics, Italian Jazz Awards voted it the best jazz disk of the year in Italy.

After some time of collaboration with Tamburini and after a couple of albums recorded with the same quintet: first album 2005 “Frenico” and and then “Isole” 2007 and many tours in Italy and Europe Stefano is always more inspired and supported by the friendship and the music shared with Billy Hart. And is Billy Hart who start suggesting Stefano to move to New York.

In 2008 Stefano is very well known in Italy and part of Europe, he’s teaching in the conservatory “F. Venezze” in Rovigo making feel him quite happy but something is going to change very quick because the call from New York arrives from Lenny White who invites him to join along with Victor Baily his trio for a week at the very well known club “Iridium”. In late 2008 Stefano moves definitely to New York where he starts his most important collaborations and music experience.

Thanks to his generous and spontaneous way to play, to his huge sound, great technique and melodic/harmonic articulations Stefano is quickly noticed by some big name like Victor Lewis and Dave Stryker. With Victor he found his first trio in New York joined by Ed Howard on bass, trio that which will bring him on tour in different parts of America and Europe.

In the 2012 he has to move back to Italy due to the sickness of his father, and that will take Stefano close to his family for 3 years, making him start again a new life in his birth country.

Quite soon he meet his old friend the accordionist Simone Zanchini who calls him in his quartet. After many gigs together and recording an album arranged by Zanchini dedicated to the Italian folk music where they are free to experiment so many different sounds and shapes of music, a great record comes out.

By an idea of Zanchini to dedicate a disk in honor of the great Michael Brecker, the album “Don’t try this anywhere” featuring: Ratko Zjaca on guitar, John Patitucci on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums gets out in the 2015 for the INANDOUT records. For this special project Randy Brecker (Michael’s brother) will write the liner notes.

In the 2016 Stefano starts his collaboration with Ratko Zjaca and after touring in Europe, in the summer 2017 they record “Life on Earth” with Renato Chicco on hammond and Antonio Sanchez on drums.

Over the course of his career Stefano has performed with lots of very famous stars of the jazz music including: Billy Hart, Ed Howard, Victor Lewis, George Cables, Jimmy Howens, George Garzone, Dave Stryker, John Riley, Billy Drummond, Tony Scott, Barry Altschul, Adam Nussbaum, Dave Kikosky, John Patitucci, Antonio Sanchez and many others.

Selected Discography

  • Area – “Chernobyl 7991” – Sony Music 1997
  • Marco Tamburini – “Frenico” – Caligola 2006
  • Stefano Bedetti Quartet – “The bright side of the moon” – Philology 2007
  • Marco Tamburini International Quintet – “Isole” – Emarcy 2007
  • Simone Zanchini Quartet – “Casadei secondo me” – Stradivarius 2013
  • Simone Zanchini Quintet – “Don’t Try This Anywhere” – In and Out Records 2015
  • Ratko Zjaca feat. Stefano Bedetti, Renato Chicco, Antonio Sanchez – “Life on Earth” – In and Out Records 2018

Renato Chicco

Pianist and organist Renato Chicco studied at the University of Music in Graz, Austria, and at Berklee College of Music in Boston. While living in New York City (1990-1998) he was a member of the Lionel Hampton Orchestra (1991-1992) and pianist and musical director with Jon Hendricks & Company (1991-1997). Being active on the New York scene during that time, aside from playing in clubs like the Blue Note, Birdland and the Village Gate, he took part in radio and TV shows (with Lionel Hampton and Jon Hendricks), performed at festivals and in clubs all over the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. Renato also performed with Lou Donaldson, Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Benny Golson, Red Holloway, Al Grey, Joe Williams, Wynton Marsalis, Gary Burton, Milt Hinton, Reggie Workman, Jerry Bergonzi, Steve Grossman, Al Foster and many others. Among his recordings as a leader (on piano) Renato recorded two CDs of his jazz arrangements of Slovenian folk songs and recently one CD as a leader and three as a co-leader on organ. As a sideman he has appeared on over 50 recordings. Renato is currently professor for jazz improvisation at the Music University in Graz and continues to perform all over the world.

Selected Discography

As a leader and co-leader:

  • Renato Chicco & Jerry Bergonzi trio “Spotlight on standards”
  • Renato Chicco & Flip Philipp, “Hammond & Vibes – Face to Face” (ATS Records, 2014)
  • Menza-Chicco-Reiter “Non dimenticar” (Alessa Records, 2013)
  • The European Leaders “Live at Birdland Neuburg” (Barnette Records, 2012)
  • Renato Chicco Organ Trio “This is New” (Barnette Records, 2012)
  • Renato Chicco Quartet “Terrestrial” (Goga Musica)
  • Renato Chicco Trio “Lipa zelenela je”, Slovenian Folk Songs in Jazz (ZKP)
  • Renato Chicco Trio “Slovenian Folk Songs in Jazz Vol. 2” (ZKP)

As a sideman:

  • Jerry Bergonzi Quartet “Tenor Talk” (Savant, 2008)
  • Jerry Bergonzi Quartet “Tenor of the Times” (Savant, 2006)
  • Jerry Bergonzi Quartet “Live Gonz 1 & 2” (Double Time, 2002)
  • Jim Rotondi and the Loop “Hard Hittin’ at the Bird’s Eye” (Sharp Nine Records, 2013)
  • Dusko Goykovich “The Brandenburg Concert” (Enja, 2013)
  • Flip Philipp “Duffin'” (ATS Records, 2013)
  • Maaike Den Dunnen “Arrival” (ATS Records, 2013)
  • Guido Di Leone “Standards on Guitar” (Four, 2011)
  • Vincent Herring “Ends and Means”
  • Dave Santoro “The New Standard” (Double Time)
  • Hendrik Muerkens “Quiet Moments” (Evidence, 1997)
  • Jon Hendricks and the All Stars “Boppin” at the Blue Note” (Telarc)
  • Hal Crook/Jerry Bergonzi Quintet “Conjunction” (Konnex Records, 1992)
  • Woody Shaw with Tone Jansa Quartet (Timeless)
  • Tone Jansa feat. Woody Shaw “Dr. Chi” (Timeless)

John Riley

In 1976, he moved to New York City and was soon called to join the Woody Herman Band. Following that great experience, John returned to New York and began freelancing with a wide spectrum of world class musicians including Stan Getz, Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Scofield, Bob Mintzer, Gary Peacock, Mike Stern, Joe Lovano, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, John Patitucci, Bob Berg, and many others. John has a Bachelor of Music degree in jazz education from the University of North Texas and a Master of Music in jazz studies from Manhattan School of Music.

He is on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music, The New School, and SUNY Purchase, and is an Artist in Residence at Amsterdam Conservatory, Holland.

John is also the author of The Art of Bop Drumming, Beyond Bop Drumming and has taught master classes around the world.