Hristo Vitchev Quartet: In Search of Wonders

Mark Sullivan By

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Bulgarian-born San Franciscan jazz guitarist/composer Hristo Vitchev leads an experienced quartet on this double-CD collection of attractive modern jazz. This is his seventh release as a leader, and the third with this quartet (allowing for a change in the drum chair), following Familiar Fields (First Orbit Sounds Music, 2013) and Song For Messsambria (First Orbit Sounds Music, 2009). His influences are eclectic, but the chamber jazz sound of tracks like the piano solo "Stay (Prelude)" and the guitar/piano duet "We Search For Wonders" are balanced by a more generally energetic sound. "Old Theme" even includes a section where the players trade fours, an unexpected nod towards bebop performance practice in what is otherwise a contemporary jazz program..

Vitchev is joined by pianist Jasnam Daya Singh (also a duet partner on Heartmony (First Orbit Sounds Music, 2012) and The Secrets of an Angel (First Orbit Sounds Music, 2009), bassist Dan Robbins, and drummer Mike Shannon. Their long playing history shows: they sound like a band, listening and responding, each member actively contributing to the sound. The program opens with "The Transitory Nature," a melodic, pastoral song that recalls the Pat Metheny Group. Vitchev's compositions share a sunny, melodic, extroverted quality with Metheny's writing, and his playing has the same qualities. A fine technician, he never indulges in technical display for its own sake.

"It May Backfire" features an infectious flamenco-tinged theme, lending the whole tune a unique rhythmic groove. Other rhythmic treats include the distinctive rhythm of "Without Words, As the Full Moon Shines" (which gives drummer Shannon a chance to shine soloing under a vamp), and the subtle bossa of "The Invisible Stairway" (where the usual bossa nova rhythm is implied, rather than stated directly).

The group took the music on the road before recording it, which gives the performances a comfortable, lived-in quality. What they lose in the energy that can come from responding to new material, they gain in all the players being confident enough in their parts to be able to relax and listen to each other, and arrangements that have had time to evolve and find their own level. Vitchev has provided the quartet with a fine set of tunes that does not overstay its welcome over the course of a double album.

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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