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Hristo Vitchev Quartet: In Search of Wonders

Roger Farbey By

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With six previous albums already to his name, guitarist Hristo Vitchev has now released a double album of his own compositions, benefitting from the inclusion of three exceptionally talented musicians constituting his quartet. Vitchev's dextrously lithe playing is evident from the start on the (initially) pastoral opener "The Transitory Nature," recalling the styles and fluidity of John Abercrombie and Bill Frisell.

After a short tranquil piano-led opening statement "It May Backfire," the longest track at nearly fourteen minutes, transmutes into a robust vamp sporadically revisited throughout the thirteen minute number; a highly engaging piece with some stellar guitar. "Post Nubes" is a more languid affair, Jasnam Daya Singh's deft piano work displaying the influences of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.

The plangent "Fuschia Brown Eyes" precedes the title track, Mike Shannon's surgically-sharp drumming provides a vital accompanying percussive edge to Vitchev's guitar. The occasional return to the emotionally-charged melody reminds the listener of the high calibre of compositions presented here. "Almost Home," preceded by a drum intro, is centred around a fast moving head,

The opener on disc 2, with a delicately symmetrical melody of "Falling In Oranges" has a tang of Pat Metheny infused also with considerable attack within the fast guitar lines. The piano plays out a questioning line answered by the guitar and this irresistible composition is worthy of anything within say, the song books of Gary Burton or Carla Bley.

By surprising contrast, "Old Theme" is a complex and breakneck-paced tune, notes positively effervescing with their sheer vibrancy and with Vitchev's florid and articulate solo it becomes apparent this guitarist is a master of his art.

"It Is Here, Somewhere" is a more relaxed and ruminative affair with more space to better appreciate the talents of Singh and Robbins. The exquisite piano prelude to "Stay" is indicative of the main piece's ballad-like approach which affords some gently florid soloing from Vitchev.

"Without Words, As The Full Moon Shines" is a feisty, frenetic number with a complicated melody that fairly motors along, plus an extraordinary upper-register bass solo from Dan Robbins and a rock-infused solo from Vitchev. The calmer mid-paced "The Invisible Stairway" precedes the closer, "We Search For Wonders," a brief evanescent duet between guitar and piano.

The key question raised in this extremely fine release is why this Bulgarian-born, San Franciso-based guitarist is not more internationally known and revered. His compositions and arrangements are strong and his playing virtuosic. In a nutshell, anyone who digs Abercrombie or Metheny will surely appreciate Vitchev. It's time more people cottoned-on to this master guitarist.

Track Listing: Disc 1: The Transitory Nature; It May Backfire; Post Nubes; Fuchsia Brown Eyes; In Search of Wonders; Almost Home (Intro); Almost Home. Disc 2: Falling in Orange; Old Theme; It Is Here, Somewhere; Stay (Prelude); Stay; Without Words, As the Full Moon Shines; The Invisible Stairway; We Search for Wonders.

Personnel: Hristo Vitchev: guitar; Dan Robbins: bass; Jasnam Dava Singh (Weber Iago): piano; Mike Shannon: drums.

Title: In Search of Wonders | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: First Orbit Sounds

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