Plamen Karadonev is a multifaceted artist who began playing accordion when he was five, in his native Bulgaria. At first he was interested in Bulgarian folk music, but expanded his horizons to play the piano, listen to jazz and meld it with his native folk music when he was in his teens. A scholarship to Berklee took him to the United States, where he began playing with several jazz musicians. The experience honed his skills as a pianist, evidence of which is rife on this recording.
Karadonev's compositions have appealing character. He takes folk forms and classical strains and weaves them seamlessly with jazz harmonies. He show this right off on the aptly named "Crossing Lines," a tune with several strands that dangle loosely at the outset. Karadonev and Hal Crook (trom-o-tizer) trade lines until the former gets down to an introspective reading of the theme. Karadonev then goes deeper into the grove, pulling out the melody and letting it ripple in the river of his notes. Drummer Lee Fish and bassist Kendall Eddy change the harmony to bop, and the music becomes filtered through this prism, with Karadonev showing a traipsing right hand and a firm left that stamps the chords. Having circumvented the theme in his initial explorations, Crook comes in to find the dangling cord. The lines that have crisscrossed now form a perfect circle.
"Like Sonny" is a solid piece of work, with tenor saxophonist George Grazone moving to the cruxbending the notes, letting tiny slivers fly loose, getting robust and brawny before he begins to swing. He has it all, a tensile player who brings edge and finesse to his role. Karadonev is energetic and melodic, and as is his wont, keeps it all pegged down with emphatic chord structures.
"Rondo a la Bulger" has a bright ambience. Karadonev lets the enticing melody billow before he pulls the beat in, and lets the nuances surface. Karadonev's focus never falters as he reinvents pulse and rhythm and draws unwavering attention in his approach to the piano, for which he gives plenty of cause throughout Crossing Lines.
Personnel: George Garzone: tenor saxophone (4, 5); Hal Crook: trombone, trom-o-tizer (1, 6); Elena Koleva: voice (8, 9); Plamen Karadonev: piano, keyboards, accordion; Kendall Eddy: bass; Austin McMahon: drums; Lee Fish: drums (1, 6).