In an era when jazz was seen as vaguely subversive, Ati Soss was among the genre's most passionate Slovenian advocates. His passion ultimately made him one of the most important names in the history of Slovenian music.
Born in 1930, Ati Soss fell in love with jazz when he was growing up in the wake of World War II. At the time, Communists had just seized power, and jazz – which they viewed as decadent Western music – was officially frowned upon. To Soss and his fellow jazz enthusiasts, the official disapproval only increased the cachet of the genre. Even though they came from respectable families, they reveled in the bohemian atmosphere of the jazz community.
While still in college, Soss formed a jazz enseble known as Veseli Berači – the Happy Beggars. He enjoyed mixing the serious with the playful in both music and real life; he even graduated from college with dual degrees – music and law. Always determined to improve his musical skills, he headed to Paris, where he continued to study the clarinet and the saxophone with some of Europe’s top musical names.
After returning to Slovenia, Soss became one of the leading personalities of the Radio Ljubljana Dance Orchestra. By the 1950s, jazz was no longer persecuted by the authorities, and the orchestra become one of the most popular attractions on Slovenian radio. While Soss admired such jazz greats as Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, he cultivated his own style, which bridged jazz and pop. He refined the style when he briefly headed his own orchestra. His compositions – he composed some 400 songs – were performed by some of the top singers in Slovenia, and many of the resulting songs are still considered classics.
Ati Soss died in 1986, but he left a musical legacy that has spanned generations and inspired a number of Slovenia’s foremost musicians. However, he never became a household name himself; he was recently described by a Slovenian magazine as "one of Slovenia’s most forgotten pop composers."