Branislav Lala Kovacev (1939 – 2012) was a Yugoslavian-Serbian jazz musician, drummer, bandleader and composer. He was a founding member and leader of the European Jazz Consensus, the International Jazz Consensus and the Lala Kovacev Group, where he developed a unique fusion style blending traditional Balkan folk music and it's complex rhythms with jazz. His 1982 album, "Balkan Impressions" highlighted Lala Kovacev’s importance to the history of Balkan Ethno Jazz and his contribution to the origins of the World music genre. In February 1983, album was acknowledged by a legendary jazz producer and broadcaster on the Voice of America, Willis Canover and one whole episode of "Jazz Hour" show was devoted to Balkan Impressions of Lala Kovacev.
Lala Kovacev was born on November 19th 1939 in Kikinda. He showed interest in music at a early age playing trumpet first and soon turning to drums. Largely self-taught, he began his professional music career as a member of the Dixieland Ensemble Dinamo when he was only seventeen. Upon arrival in Belgrade, he began to play with an outstanding pianist Vasa Belosevic. Within two years he became the youngest member of the most prominent jazz ensemble in Yugoslavia - the Radio Belgrade Jazz Orchestra led by Vojislav "Bubisa" Simic. He went abroad to Sweden and Germany in the mid sixties, and began his collaboration with the famous pianist and composer Horst Jankowski. After a number of LPs recorded in Germany and many international tours with Jankowski's Quartet and Orchestra, Lala's reputation was growing rapidly. Soon he met the famous big band leader Max Greger and decided to stay in Munich after being offered a position in his Orchestra. He joined the North German Radio Orchestra in Hanover the following year. During this period Lala Kovacev was rehearsing and recording with Chick Corea, Albert Mangelsdorff, Wolfgang Dauner, Hans Koller, Alan Skidmore, Michal Urbaniak and Benny Bailey. In the mid seventies, Lala Kovacev formed his own quartet European Jazz Consensus with Alan Skidmore, Gerd Dudek and Adelhard Roidinger. This avant-garde jazz group released "Morning Rise" album in 1977 and "Four for Slavia" in 1978. International Jazz Consensus came as a continuation of the first quartet and released album "Beak To Beak" in 1981 featuring Allan Praskin, Adelhard Roidinger and John Thomas. He went to Yugoslavia occasionally, and often thought about his eternal challenge - to connect the rich Balkan folk music heritage with jazz. Lala Kovacev Group was created and released three albums with different lineups throughout the years - "Balkan Impressions" in 1982, "Balkan Impressions Vol.2" in 1985 and "Izvorni Folklor i Jazz" in 1987.
Lala Kovacev had unbelievably rich career marked with extraordinary drumming technique. He lived the life of a true artist, playing with some of the greatest jazz musicians of his era. His endless innovation led to a revolutionary integration of irregular Balkan rhythms in modern jazz and became a precursor of many later to come sub-genres like Balkan ethno jazz and World music. He spent the last decades of his life living quietly with his wife Dana in a small town of Zavala, on a beautiful Croatian island Hvar. Lala Kovacev passed away on September 4th 2012 leaving a huge music legacy in a number of audio and video recordings.