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A: Wow, I'm not even sure how to answer that one. For me, being any other kind of musician isn't even conceivable at this point. I think it was a gradual thing, but the more I played this music, the more I wanted to. Then I'd go do another kind of gig and it was "just work" (a paycheck). When I'm playing jazz, it's a kind of euphoria. I simply don't feel the same level of joy in playing other styles of music. I'm not sure at what point this occurred because I did enjoy playing other styles when I was younger, but they don't really appeal to me any more. I don't know if that will change, but that's what it's been for the last 35 years.
Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?
A: That's a tough one. Nowadays there's so much competition from social media, YouTube, etc. that it's difficult to get people to come out to concerts or purchase recordings in a number that can make these things sustainable. On the one hand we have instant access to so much music and information. But the flip side of that is that we don't have time to dive as deep into any of it. On the bright side; a week ago I attended the final concert of the Wes Montgomery Jazz Guitar Competition and the young guitarists performing were simply brilliant and certainly at a technical level much higher than anything I remember hearing from any of the guitarists their age (including myself) when I first came to New York. And of course, this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. But where are all these great players going to perform and who is going to be their audience? Here in New York you can hang at places like Smalls and Mezzrow, and see that there's still a vital scene of young musicians who want to play and listen to this. But for jazz to really survive and thrive the 21st Century, we need venues like this in every city.
Some years ago when I had my own record label, Hristo's manager sent me an email about him in hopes that I would sign Hristo to a contract. Graciously explaining it was strictly a label for my wife's recordings and mine, I thought that would be it, but Hristov wanted me to hear him, so he sent me his CD. I was immediately impressed by his playing and command of the instrument and I wanted to know more about him. Through the years we have remained in touch and his output of work is impressive. Born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1980, this 35-year old jazzer now resides in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a graduate with a BA in improvised studies at San Jose State University. Not only is Hristo a great player he's an educator, author and composer. Receiving numerous awards and critical praise, Hristo Vitchev is jazz guitarist on the verge. Hopefully this little push will help.
Q: How long have you played the guitar?
A: I have played guitar for about 23 years, ten of which, I've spent playing jazz. My first exposure to the instrument was in the rock, heavy metal, and progressive styles. Little by little my ears kept evolving and searching for new colors, textures, and sonic palettes.
A: Jazz to me was one of the most inviting, liberating, exciting, and interesting styles of music. The liberty in communication, the depth, dimension, and musical dialogue that is possible within the jazz idiom and sensibility for me is the most attractive of all musical styles. It is a musical world that allows the complete, honest, and sincere discovery of yourself as an artist and person, and its ever-evolving personality and character are the driving force that fuels every artistic creation!
Q: Where do you think jazz is headed?
A: I think jazz is simply moving forward. For some people it may be a good or bad thing. Jazz is constantly evolving, progressing, assimilating with it new traditions, cultures, sounds, forms of expression and delivery, and most of all, truly reflecting the state, emotions, and feelings of the society we have created for ourselves. To me, jazz is a concept, an approach, and a way of thinking. It has surpassed the boundaries of a musical style.
At some point in the near future Hristo will become a household name. When he does, remember you heard it here first.
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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