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Hristo Vitchev: Of Light and Shadows

Phillip Woolever By

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Vitchev's latest effort is another jewel in his growing catalogue of widespread genres. Given Vitchev's warmly ambitious range of projects, he may soon be able to center his own multi-themed festival.

This presents his current, contemporary style quartet in an impressive showcase. The SF bay area group's core has played together in various ensembles for years, and their cohesive evolution is demonstrated throughout. Vitchev gives his band mates plenty of room to groove from the opening track on, they respond with crisp cascading chords.

When Vitchev does step out his quick, clean leads hold up respectably while drawing inevitable comparisons with heavy hitters like John Scofield or Pat Metheny. The title track would fit in well amidst Metheny's American Garage. Nothing new under the sun? Maybe not, but there is plenty of positive light and energy here.

In line with Vitchev's discography, much of the album is piano driven, "Selective Absorption" a case in point alongside "The Shortest Wavelength," on which longtime collaborating bassist Dan Robbins' nicely stretched solo strings glide precisely over Mike Shannon's ample sticks.

Vitchev remains relatively subdued for nearly half that 12-minute exercise, with relative newcomer (2 years), Brazilian pianist Jasnam Daya Singh and Robbins blasting off again until Vitchev returns with swiftly spiraling echoes of multi-fingered mastery as the band comes back to a singular, closing stretch of keys.

On "Pentachromatic Butterflies" heavy bass paves the way for a deep journey illuminated by staccato bursts that will probably become a live treat.

"A Portrait of a Love Forgotten" and the gentle "At your Side" further highlight exceptional chemistry between Vitchev and Daya Singh that brings out the best in both. Some very smooth ballads done just right, with the rhythm section tight, on creative patterns.

Whether or not it's actually the strongest track, funky flurries on "Partial Darkness," including some nice closing riffs, end the album with a bang.

Vitchev wrote all the songs, and it figures there were valuable contributions from the rest of the group. Production and sound quality were excellent when experienced on two different systems.

Another plus is the length of the album, at a value-packed total length around 74:37. None of that time is wasted and much of it, like a real jewel, is to treasure.

Turn it up. There could be a new guitar hero in jazz town.

Track Listing: Of Light and Shadows; The Shortest Wavelength; Selective Absorption, At Your Side; Prelude to Prismic Dance; Prismic Dance; Pentachromatic Butterflies; A Portrait of a Love Forgotten; Partial Darkness

Personnel: Hristo Vitchev, guitar: Jasnam Daya Singh, piano; Dan Robbins, bass; Mike Shannon, drums.

Title: Of Light and Shadows | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: First Orbit Sounds

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