While these ten tracks recorded by bassist Peter Slavov
's variable-sized outfit were all fleshed out in the studio between 2017 and 2019, this debut album actually covers a wider span of time. Collecting music penned over the past 20 years, and attaching attendant stories for background and bridging purposes, Slavov essentially looks back over his entire professional career and beyond.
Fantasy, family, literature and life as we know it all play a part in the telling of these tales, but at the root of it all is Slavov's resounding bass. Whether serving as a harmonic pivot, an instrument of energy or the central voice, it's always on point. All of that is made clear within the first two numbers. Both enhanced with strings, they essentially cover two different sides of the same coin: "Prologue: Glide" references a dream of flight, ably manifested in the leader's catalytic lines, and "Gone," with its episodic introductions and flowing ideals, comes to terms with the nightmare of loss which accompanied Slavov's father's passing.
Further on, within the looser confines of "Bye," Slavov expands on his connection to his father with some help from the core band of pianist Nitzan Gavrieli
, drummer Diego Ramirez
and multi-reedist John Ellis
(on bass clarinet). It's one of the most engrossing pieces on the program, but no single song, including that one, manages to capture the leader's multi-dimensional being. It takes the entire album to really cover his individualistic qualities.
As each story unfolds, the bassist lays out different parts of his past while inviting various friends to join in and highlight different facets of his writing. "Small Little Things," nodding to an unnamed important figure in Slavov's life, brings Mark Small
's bass clarinet into a wondrous scenario; "History of Beauty," referencing Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being
, welcomes Mi Kim's wordless vocals and Marcio Philomena's guitar to a gorgeous Brazilian stream of thought; and the reflective "A.M.," recalling midnight walks through the snowy streets of Sofia in Bulgaria, offers both Mark McLean's understated drumming and Matt Marantz
's inviting tenor saxophone a place at the table.
In the endand, literally, at
the endSlavov leaves us with a reminder that, despite displays of kinship and connection, music retains certain solitary suggestions in its birthing and being. The semi-improvised "Elegy," putting the focus squarely on the bassist, proves to be a fitting way to close out a compelling program which speaks volumes about one man's history and artistry.
Prologue: Glide; Gone; Small Little Things; Photos; Bye; History of Beauty; Ghost; In Defense Of The
Minotaur; A.M.; Elegy.