Artist : Hristo Vitchev Quartet
Album : Song For Messambria
Released Date : April, 2009
Label : First Orbit Sounds Music
Jazz will continue to live on. This is why the wonderful jazz world never stops having new member to come up. It is not only coming up, but also offering something new to enrich the world of jazz and making it even better than ever. Some has very special talents in many ways and contributes a big deal to bring jazz into a fresh new height. Let’s talk for a while about a “movement” that was very innovative and progressive some time between 60’s and 70’s. Some of us still remember how it was when ECM represented the clarity of sound in such a style that often refused to take sides in any particular genres. Spontaneous, explorative and experimental, as free as a bird, just like what Keith Jarrett, Gary Burton, Chick Corea and many other ECM artists have given. And do you remember how Bill Evans inspired many jazz musicians with his high nuanced approach, the pureness feeling of his musical style and his reformed chord voicing in harmonic development that made him monumental as a role model for modern day jazz pianist? Think of all the previous stories and imagine if we have someone that gathers all those things in one. Here we have Hristo Vitchev. Let’s make a way to welcome one of the newest guitarists in the recordings with his quartet that has just released his debut “Song For Messambria” launched just a month ago. This is a fantastic debut album with many things to highlight.
Hristo Vithcev is a modish guitarist and brilliant composer from Sofia, Bulgaria. He started them all since he was at the age of 12. He got a change to get a formal education later at the Roland Music Academy in Caracas, Venezuela. He moved to San Fransisco Bay Area in 1998 and built his career steadily since then. Through his career he has gone through live tours both locally and internationally in various formations and he also has given guitar clinics in Europe and Japan. So far he has made more than 200 original compositions and has written many articles on jazz improvisation and a book on chordal theory and construction for guitarists entitled “Between The Voicings: A New Approach to Chord Building for Guitarists”. He graduated from San Jose State University and held B.A. in music degree (jazz guitar focusing in composition and arranging), then continued his path as an educator in the greater San Fransisco Bay Area. Having built his career to grow steadily in fast motion, Vitchev came into the recording. He recorded and then released his debut album, “Song For Messambria” together with his quartet consisting of brilliant Brazilian pianist Weber Iago, bassist Dan Robbins from Santa Cruz and drummer Joe De Rose from San Jose.
That Vitchev uses “In harmony we trust” as his tagline is exactly what we get in “Song For Messambria.” This is a remarkable album in harmony. The four of them are just blended in perfectly from start to finish, and still have wide enough playgrounds to improvise for each and every one of them. Listening to this album is like having a journey into the art of jazz impressionism, just like what they gave as a hint on the cover. It’s a voyage through many shapes and layers of jazz with colorful tones. Adventurous, daring and challenging, they explore the sea of jazz bravely to reach the other end. “Song For Messambria” has it all. Explorative with enough room to improvise throughout the songs, we will get from a vintage ECM style, mainstream, smooth contemporary, exotic touch of Latin, waltz, slices of folk and classical music, orchestral, even a slight taste of pentatonic scale usually found in Indonesian ethnical music. What’s great about it, through all these elements that might sound difficult for some to absorb, isn’t difficult to understand at all. It’s simply a beautiful, pleasant, calming, and relaxing one.
Hristo Vitchev Quartet starts with “Waltz for Iago”. This song is a tribute to the pianist Weber Iago, presented in a rich waltz with a very royal pulse and some classical touches here and there, but still packed in modern jazz harmony. Placing this song in the first number is a good idea, because the tone will set you up completely for the journey of sound. Try to close your eyes while listening to it and you’ll know what I mean. It’s a mind-wandering song for more than 8 minutes. What a start! “Sad Cloud” presented in bossa-based tune uses mainly augmented chords. Basically served in bossa, you will find it mysterious and kind of dark at times. “Looking for One” is a case of multilayered sound. Starts with crystal-clear, folk-like guitar pluck, this ballad blossoms as a serious sweet soul searching composition, jazz style. The fourth song is very special to me. It’s “Dali in Bali”, picturing the imaginative idea if Salvador Dali being in Bali, painting the exotic landscapes in his bizarre surrealism. Hristo Vitchev Quartet successfully presented the taste of gamelan ensemble, the ethnical music of Indonesia through delicious repeated pentatonic pattern and syncopate beat that usually played with kendangs (the double headed drums). Joe De Rose did it very well. It’s a tribute to Indonesian music and its gamelan world for sure. It wouldn’t be easy to picture the exotic and beautiful landscape of Bali through the derange mind of Salvador Dali, and they gloriously did it. The beautiful landscape is there, and so is the nuance of surrealism. “Parisian Skies” is presented in smooth bossa/latin that captures a bohemian atmosphere under the lovely Parisian skies.
The satin and smooth “At Daybreak” is one of the songs that make you reach the most pleasant relax. This song contains very subtle and harmonious rich melodies that paint the sky at the break of a day. Weber Iago did a marvelous job to start the song before Vitchev and later Dan Robbins continued to hold the melody. “The Road to Naklabeht” is a portrait of the wonderful scenery of a mountainous region in Bulgaria, reflecting Vitchev’s road trip back home. Naklabeht is “The Balkan” spelled backward. This song is a case of having a traditional ECM style; just like how Keith Jarrett used to do; in a delightful latin suitcase. The title track “Song For Messambria” comes next. This is a musical portrait of one of Vitchev’s most favorite cities in the world. Messambria (Messemvria), now Nessebar, is known as one of the most picturesque sea places on earth. It’s located on the Bulgarian coast of the Black Sea. This song captures the beauty, the magic and enchantment of the city. “Faith Avenue” is a royal musical reflection of the street which is followed in life. Faith, memories and experiences are all combined in it. “It Follows” as the last song is a duet between piano and guitar which suggest the theme for Vitchev’s upcoming second album entitled “The Secrets of an Angel” featuring Weber Iago which will be available in late November 2009. This is a very smooth and charming composition like a feather that will land in your heart softly.
Hristo Vitchev‘s debut album, “Song For Messambria” possessed all the art of music. It’s poetic, a musical landscape journey that will leave you breathless. This album will surely grab and hold your intention right from the first note played. Brilliant play by the whole members of the band with perfect chemistry among them results in a really fine debut album. This album shows the bright future for Hristo Vitchev Quartet clearly. Vitchev himself is a fine jazz guitarist, but unlike some of other fine guitarists, Vitchev is also strong in composition. Masterclass composition proves Vitchev as one of the notable contender to list among the great composers. This album will let you go dreamy, letting your mind to have a wonderful imaginative journey. “Song For Messambria” is a showcase of the art of impressionism in music, translated in the form of music that won’t be difficult to love at all. This stunning debut album soon will be followed by the next Hristo vitchev project together with Weber Iago, “The Secrets of an Angel”, coming soon in a couple of months. So grab the original copy, close your eyes, listen to it and enjoy the journey in the beautiful art of music.
Hristo Vitchev Quartet are:
Hristo Vitchev – guitar
Joe De Rose – drums
Weber Iago – piano
Dan Robbins – bass
Waltz for Iago
Looking for One
Dali in Bali
The Road to Naklabeht
Song for Messambria
Reviewed by: Riandy Kurniawan
Special thanks to :