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Hristo Vitchev Quartet: In Search of Wonders

Karl Ackermann By

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Only in his mid-thirties, Hristo Vitchev has led or co-led eight releases; three previous albums with the core of this quartet. With each outing representing a creative and additive progression that should rightfully place him in the class of guitarist/composers that span skill sets from Jim Hall to Pat Metheny, Vitchev is overdue in finding a wider audience. More importantly, as an artist (and his quartet, as a group) has documented each collection has contributing to a style that has become increasingly identifiable even as it builds on technique and creativity.

Vitchev's long-standing lead partner, Jasnam Dava Singh, is a force himself. Having established firm credentials under the name of Weber Iago as a solo artist, and as part of a drummer Todd Bishop's Ornette Coleman cover quintet, along with multiple recordings with the eclectic Colin Farish, Iago made the decision to change his name (for the second time in his career). All of which is to say that under any name, the Brazilian-born pianist's work is well worth investigating and provides much of the dynamism on In Search of Wonders.

Drummer Mike Shannon first joined the quartet on the previous release Familiar Fields (First Orbit Sounds, 2013); an immediately good fit with his light touch, complimentary playing and inventive style. Together with long-time bassist Dan Robbins, the two provide drive a fluid, adaptable rhythm section expertly reacting to the trading and overlapping leads of Vitchev and Singh. Shannon and Robbins' contributions often make for a transformational component in taking some of the softer elements of this two-disc set and giving those compositions a bit more of an edge.

Disc one begins with "The Transitory Nature," a wistful tune that finds Vitchev and Singh matching each other in ethereal melodicism. "It May Backfire" and the title track move into faster paced and more improvisational settings and at more than thirteen minutes, gives Vitchev and Singh plenty of time to loosen up. Pieces like "Fuchsia Brown Eyes," "Falling in Orange" and "Old Theme" may have fallen into the rather tired category of fusion in less skilled hands. Vitchev and Singh, however, are masterful in their manipulation of dynamics and building of textures, revealing much more complexity on careful listening.

In Search of Wonders is more than one-hundred minutes of diverse, accessible and engaging music. As he has long been, Vitchev is beyond proficient in his array of techniques while remaining an overall impressionist; both being characteristics he shares with Singh. At their improvisational best, Vitchev and Singh are like two streams of thought at a confluence; each bringing their own charisma and exquisite style to a place that enhances both players and conveys—as the title suggests—a sense of wonder to the listener. An additional bonus (to the physical CD set) are reproductions of Vitchev's fine abstract oil paintings and graphic designs that appear throughout the tri-fold cover.

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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