The Arrival of the Modern Guitarist: Marcos Pin and Hristo Vitchev

Hrayr Attarian By

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The first months of 2013 saw the emergence of two fascinating and innovative guitar albums by two very different musicians who, nevertheless, share a strong European sensibility.

Marcos Pin Factor E-Reset


Free Code Jazz Records


Galician guitarist and composer Marcos Pin has undertaken a daring project with Barbanza, his first recording leading a large ensemble. The spacious, dramatic and quite inventive set consists of six originals and a reading of saxophonist John Coltrane's "Moment's Notice." The orchestral approach to the material is reminiscent of pianist/arranger Gil Evans' classic works. Pin, however, brings his own unique touch to leadership that clearly stem from his native musical heritage.

On the classically influenced "Where Are They?," the theatrical dialogue between Pin's lilting and percussive guitar and the rest of the band is like the exchange between a solitary actor and a chorus. It also gives him the opportunity to showcase his intelligent improvisations that seamlessly emerge from the main theme and meld back into it. Reedman Pablo Castanho's warm and intimate alto weaves a wistful tone poem around the vaguely Spanish melody.

Castanho's mellow and elastic sound is the perfect complement to saxophonist Toňo Otero's thick and vibrato heavy baritone on the Coltrane standard. Tenorist Xosė Lois Miguelez's hearty and fluent saxophone brings an ardent, earthy feel. The piece also highlights Pin's leadership skills as he coaxes a big band personality out of his tentet and punctuates the arrangement with his carefully placed notes.

Pianist Manolo Gutiérez's spare keys open the modal and cinematic "Bico De Mar." Gutiérez's darkly hued and mellifluous solo sets a nocturnesque ambience, one enhanced by trombonist José Luis Miranda longing song and bassist Juansy Santomé's haunting and sparse "chant."

A night-time atmosphere also permeates the sensuous, tangoesque "Noite De Sereas" that features vibraphonist Ton Risco's cool, boppish cascade of mallet strikes and tenorist Xosė Lois Miguelez's blues drenched, slowly simmering saxophone.

Risco's resonant bars usher in the pièce de la resistance and the most inventively stimulating composition on this imaginative and thrilling album, "Escarbote's Blues." Trumpeter Javier Pereiro's burnished and clear horn constructs an edgy extemporization over the guitar-led angular rhythmic structures. Drummer Max Goméz's complex rumble adds an urgency to the tune with its shifting dynamics and tonal colors. A free flowing, stream of consciousness conversation by all the musicians flirts with the avant-garde without being abstruse. This delightfully subtle cacophony flows back to Risco's tolling vibes that conclude the disc.

Pin's bold and ambitious endeavor has paid off handsomely. The resulting record is an intriguing and satisfying mélange of sublime spontaneity and brilliant orchestration.

As extroverted as Pin's opus is, guitarist/composer Hristo Vitchev's is introspective in its intimacy but no less enthralling.

Hristo Vitchev Quartet

Familiar Fields

First Orbit Sounds


Bulgaria-born and San Francisco-based Vitchev has established himself as a modern day troubadour. His enchanting and fantastical tunes have the feel of medieval ballads abundantly peppered with futuristic sounds.

His sixth release, Familiar Fields, presents nine impressionistic originals that showcase his maturing compositional skills as well as the superlative, improvisational talents of his working quartet.

The two-part title track is an intriguing exercise in contrasts. The first opens with Vitchev's languid tones floating over the urgently percolating rhythmic structures of his band mates. Vitchev's sinewy meandering solo stems out of bassist Dan Robbins' heady yet honeyed dark resonance. The second starts as a haunting lullaby, with pianist Weber Iago's sparse and bright keys echoing against the ambient silence. The melody gradually evolves out of Iago's spontaneous and earthy embellishments and leads logically into Vitchev's ethereal and complex flights of fancy.

Long time collaborators Vitchev and Iago have a unique musical empathy. Each player expands on the ideas of the other so perfectly that it almost seems as if there is a single musician alternating instruments.

A classically-trained, Rio De Janeiro-native, Iago builds exciting modal improvisations on sonata-like structures of such pieces as the cinematic "The Prophet's Daughter." Robbins' lyrical and conversational bass enhances the darker motifs while drummer Mike Shannon bursts forth with a short but exhilarating expression of rollicking beats that concludes the tune.

A versatile instrumentalist, Robbins handles his large chordophone with a remarkable agility as his intricately woven extemporization demonstrates on the vaguely gypsy-esque "The Mask of Agamemnon."

Equally multifaceted Shannon can go from percussive exuberance to poignant taps, gentle brushes and tolling cymbals as he amply demonstrates on the pastoral and intimate "Willing to Live."

With each album Vitchev's oeuvre ripens and becomes more sophisticated without losing its delightfully spirited edge. Familiar Fields not only stands on its own merit as sublime music but also whets the appetite for what is yet to come.

Tracks and Personnel


Track Listing: Baguerra's Dilemma; Moment's Notice; Bico De Mar; San Finx; Where are they?; Noite De Sereas; Escarbote's Blues.

Personnel: Javier Pereiro: trumpet and flugelhorn; José Luis Miranda: trombone and euphonium; Pablo Castanho: alto saxophone and flute; Xosė Lois Miguelez: tenor saxophone; Toňo Otero: tenor & baritone saxophones; Ton Risco: vibraphone; Marcos Pin: guitar; Manolo Gutiérrez: piano; Juansy Santomé: bass; Max Goméz: drums.

Familiar Fields

Track Listing: Ballad For The Fallen; Wounded By A Poison Arrow; The Prophet's Daughter; They Are No More; Familiar Fields Part 1; Familiar Fields Part 2; The Mask Of Agememnon; The Fifth Season; Willing To Live.

Personnel: Hristo Vitchev: guitar; Dan Robbins: bass; Weber Iago: piano; Mike Shannon: drums.

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