Classically educated in Germany and the Netherlands, Bulgarian trumpeter/flugelhorn player Neyko Bodurov might have opted for a life-long career in those countries' chamber ensembles and orchestras. Instead, the thirty-seven-year old has followed his jazz muse. Once of the European Jazz Orchestra and the jazz department at the Amsterdam Conservatoire, Bodurov is the principal driving force behind the Varna Jazz Days Festival, held over two days in May, by the shore of The Black Sea. The music is clearly in his DNA. On this, his debut album, Bodurov takes a modernist approach to traditional form, his electro-acoustic quintet navigating the highways and byways of Nu-jazz where funk, soul-jazz, electronica and broken beats provide the frameworks for the quintet's tight interplay.
Right from the start of "Somethin' in Between," with its nostalgic sound of needle crackling on vinyl, post-production plays an important role in sculpting Bodurov's soundworldan important role, but not a defining one for, as on this opening soul-funk track, drummer Dimitar Semov's hip-hop-influenced beats and keyboardist (and brother) Dimitar Bodurov's painterly touches greatly inform the leader's compositions. Trumpeter, then keyboardist followed by alto saxophonist Dimitar Liolev, all lay down early markers but, in the main, Nikobo is more about delving into grooves and creating atmospheres than it is about stretching out. To that end, solos are brief, yet spirited.
The laid-back, synth-tinged soul-funk of "Blue Orange" would grace the background of any hipster nightspot. Cocktail music? That depends on the sophistication of the bar; despite the instant melodic appeal and catchy hooks that span Niboko, there is some depth in the arrangements, as well as rhythmic elasticity. Bodurov clearly likes a good tune and a well-defined groove, but he doesn't idle in the same lane for any length of time; rhythms come and go and instruments nip in and out, never overstaying their welcome. That said, repetitious cycles and strong headsusually stated in unison by trumpet and saxophoneprovide familiar frameworks for the subtly shifting inner dynamics at play.
The sound of waves lapping on a shore, metronomic ticking, keyboard drone and distant trumpet provide a mellow entrée to "Voices in my Head." A minute or so in, however, and skittering drums kick-start a more animated ensemble dialogue. DJ and drum 'n' bass producer Ivan Shopov guests on "Alone on the Planet," bringing slightly woozy and shimmering sci-fi textures to one of the album's most atmospheric tracks. The leader's plaintive trumpet lines here contrast with Semov's more assertive rhythmic currents, creating a satisfying underlying tension.
Bassist Mihail Ivanov is the other link in the chain, alternating between spacious phrasing, as on "To Be Found," and funky riffs and slaps, on the upbeat "Slippery"perhaps the only track devoid of studio manipulation, and none the worse for it. Ivanov's solo is the highlight of "Illusion," which falls between ballad and ambient chill-out. The infectious, funk-cum-soul-jazz of "Boozle Bam" features sign-off solos from Liolev, Neyko Bodurov and then Dimitar Bodurov but, as on the album as a whole, it is really the quintet's grooving chemistry that holds sway.
Neyko Bodurov's Nikobo is more than simply an assured debut; it is a vibrant and highly accessible calling card which manages the trick of bridging tradition and modernity, with equal doses of soul, chops, and studio guile. It whets the appetite for the next chapter.
Somethin’ in Between; Blue Orange; Voices in My Head; Alone on the Planet; To be Found; Slippery; Illusion; Boozle
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