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Hristo Vitchev Quintet: The Perperikon Suite

C. Michael Bailey By

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The San Francisco Bay Area is harboring a musical danger in Bulgarian guitarist Hristo Vitchev. The danger is production of germane, even compelling modern jazz that engages and warrants attention. As styles and genres become less relevant, the direction Vitchev initiated with his quartet recording, Songs of Messambria (First Orbit Sounds, 2009), and duet release, Secrets of an Angel (First Orbit Sounds, 2009), comes into a more complete realization on The Perperikon Suite.

Vitchev's quintet of guitar, vibes, piano, bass and drums updates that same formula employed so successfully by the late George Shearing. The absence of brass and reeds lends a percussive, note-centered tone to the music produced. There is plenty of space between the instruments, their individual roles well-defined by the smart writing and arranging of Vitchev.

What The Perperikon Suite's music immediately captures is time becoming tactile. Vitchev's circuitous melodies are propelled by the sure hand of drummer Joe DeRose, who never allows any spreading of the beat. Pianist Weber Iago's playing is so empathic that he and Vitchev can easily finish the other's musical thoughts. Add in the percussive, temporal presence of Christian Tamburr's vibes, and the overall Shearing parallel is fully realized and transcended.

Many time motifs are used throughout this suite. Tick-tock ascending and descending figures pass as a thread through cloth, to hold this musical garment—a coat of many colors—together. Vitchev achieves this effect with no apparent effort or change in guitar tone or approach. Merely by affecting the time signatures, Vitchev makes his magic. The Perperikon Suite is soft-spoken and brainy music that exists out of the ordinary.

Track Listing: The Stone Passage; The Palace; The Great Hall; The Shrine of Dionysus; The Acropolis; The Northern City; The Southern City.

Personnel: Hristo Vitchev: guitar; Weber Iago: piano; Christian Tamburr: vibes; Dan Robbins: bass; Joe DeRose: drums.

Title: The Perperikon Suite | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: First Orbit Sounds


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