Plamen Karadonev is a very likeable new pianist on the Boston scene. Originally from Bulgaria, he likes to combine his native folk and classical music with American jazz on his stimulating debut, Crossing Lines.
The album is not without surprises, including the partial presence of Boston's George Garzone who gives a lesson or two on the way to bring tenor saxophone into play, as well as former Phil Woods trombonist Hal Crook, who brings along the electrified trom-o-tizer. Both musicians act as catalysts for the core group to play even harder on the few tracks on which they appear.
Karadonev's style is most reminiscent of McCoy Tyner, with a turbulent yet lyrical style that percolates with excitement on the opening title track. The pacing and variety of the disc can be heard on Cole Porter's "Night and Day," followed by Bulgarian music and Karadonev's "Rondo a la Bulgare." Garzone appears on Coltrane's "Like Sonny" and his stimulating solo prods the group into even more intensive performance without crossing into any outside jazz flourishes.
The pace slows down for Karadonev's ballad "Sianic," also aided by Garzone's touching melodic solo, while the short piano piece, "Prelude in F," demonstrates Karadonev's sense of beauty. "Frohleher Landman" is one of Crossing Lines' highlights. Based on a theme by Robert Schumann, all hands taking it for a ride as Garzone's strongest post-Coltrane cries are matched by Crook trying to keep apace with his trom-o-tizer, while Karadonev and the rhythm section are cooking.
The album's conclusion is almost on a totally different plane. Vocalist Elena Koleva sings the Legrand/Bergman classic, "You Must Believe In Spring," followed by Ivan Lins' popular "The Island." They are both very pretty, but seem to be coming from another session entirely.
Crossing Lines; Night And Day; Rondo ala Bulgar; Like Sonny; Sianie; Frohleher Landman; Prelude in F; You Must Believe in Spring; The Island.
George Garzone: saxophone (4, 5, 6); Hal Crook: trombone, trom-o-tizer (1, 6); Elena Koleva: vocals (5, 8, 9); Plamen Karadonev: piano, keyboards, accordion; Kendall Eddy: bass; Austin McMahon: drums (2-5, 7-9); Lee Fish: drums (1, 6).