Hristo Vitchev / Liubomir Krastev - "RHODOPA"
With their RHODOPA project, modern jazz guitarist and composer Hristo Vitchev and virtuoso clarinetist Liubomir Krastev create a beautiful sonic pairing of the extremely emotional and lyrical Bulgarian folklore and the multidimensional and deeply textured world of modern jazz harmony.
"Lale li si, Zyumbiul li si" (Are you a Tulip, Are you a Hyacinth)
"The wonders of Jazz Guitarist and composer Hristo Vitchev have been described by others as follows: ''Vitchev's sophisticated and adventurous work is imbued with shimmering harmonies and lyrical improvisations, and `Hristo Vitchev may be one of the best kept secrets in jazz today. He is the epitome of sonic gold.' But it takes only an introduction to his gifts as represented here in this one passage from an album to soon be released called RHODOPA to decide for your self that you are in the presence of a very unique master.
Hristo Vitchev was born in Sofia, Bulgaria and now lives in the San Francisco area but his roots are warmly displayed in this single selection `Lale Li Si, Zyumbiul Li Si ` (translated, `Are you a Tulip, Are you a Hyacinth'), a plaintive song that radiate warmth like a wafting breeze. His collaborator on this piece as well as for the entire album is virtuoso clarinetist Liubomir Krastev and together these two artists take us to another place - a place rich in folksongs caressed by contemporary jazz. Vitchev's mastery of his guitar is matched by the extreme span of notes Krastev brings to the duo. It sounds as though he is playing different size clarinets, so lyrical is his tone on the high notes and so resonant on the lowest register.
Hearing simply this one excerpt from the album (a work in excess of 10 minutes) unsheathes emotions that we may have felt inaccessible. It is moving, it is intensely musical, and it is well crafted and performed." - Grady Harp (Amazon.com)
“Vitchev’s sophisticated and adventurous work is imbued with shimmering harmonies and lyrical improvisations.” – JAZZTIMES MAGAZINE
"Vitchev’s multihued compositions are like impressionistic sound paintings." - JAZZIZ
"Hristo Vitchev may be one of the best kept secrets in jazz today. He is the epitome of sonic gold." - DIGITAL JAZZ NEWS
"Hristo Vitchev plays as the cultural end result of his life experiences. Simply put, Vitchev plays more so from the heart than he does the head." - Critical Jazz
“A richly textured album full of strong melodic and rhythmic ideas and with some superb playing throughout.” – THE JAZZ MANN (England)
Hristo Vitchev is a modern jazz guitarist and composer from Sofia, Bulgaria. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hristo leads his modern jazz quartet which features the Latin Grammy-nominated pianist Weber Iago, drummer extraordinaire Joe De Rose, and virtuoso bassist Dan Robbins. Hristo has toured nationally and internationally with a wide variety of formations and has also performed guitar clinics in Europe and Japan. He has written more than 270 original compositions, many articles on jazz improvisation, and a book on chordal theory and construction entitled Between the Voicings: A New Approach to Chord Building for Guitarists. The Hristo Vitchev Quartet’s 2009 debut album, Song for Messambria (First Orbit Sounds Music) quickly received outstanding reviews by the international jazz community and was selected as one of the six best jazz albums of 2009 by E-JAZZ NEWS.
As jazz critic Edward Blanco describes, “Vitchev is the newest guitarist to enter the national jazz scene and does so with a stunner of a recording in Song for Messambria, one of the finest debut albums I've had the pleasure of appraising this year.”
The record presents a unique blend of ECM-style modern jazz, classical, and Brazilian tone textures, and showcases the completely unique and masterful interpretation of the jazz idiom by each one of its members. In late 2009, Hristo Vitchev released his second studio album featuring Latin Grammy-nominated pianist Weber Iago. The Secrets of an Angel is an impressionistic landscape painted by the delightful and graceful conversation between the two instruments (guitar/piano).
As jazz critic Brad Walseth describes, "On the heels of his impressive debut recording, Song for Messambria, guitarist Hristo Vitchev returns along with pianist Weber Iago for a wonderful guitar/piano duet recording - The Secrets of an Angel...while the gentle title track shimmers like a glistening iceberg on a cold sea. The delightful two-part ‘The Last Pirate’ is a highlight - brilliantly showcasing the exciting romantic bend inherent in Vitchev's music, while the nostalgic lullaby “Leka Nosht (Good Night)” recalls a faraway youth and rounds out this fine release.”
In 2010 Hristo Vitchev wrote a large scale jazz work (The Perperikon Suite) especially to be premiered at the 53rd Monterey Jazz Festival. This 7 movements jazz suite is inspired by the ancient Thracian city of Perperikon (located on the territory of Bulgaria), and combines orchestral, classical, jazz, and fusion elements depicting the history and mystery of this enchanting place. The work marks Hristo Vitchev’s third album and one of his most adventurous and sophisticated works up to date. For the recording of this project the Hristo Vitchev Quartet was joined by virtuoso vibraphonist and multi-instrumentalist Christian Tamburr.
As jazz critic Dan Bilawsky describes: “Shimmering harmonies resonate throughout these modern jazz marvels, and the soloists work their way around and through this accessible and exciting music with equal measures of taste, technique and spirit. Vitchev's pieces are peppered with signpost sonorities and ideas that often reappear throughout a given song, creating a sense of continuity and thematic steadiness that develops around individual soloists. While this group ably establishes its own aural identity, which threads its way through the whole album, each movement of the suite has different strengths and a unique sonic footprint. Brought to life as a tale of two cities, The Perperikon Suite ultimately occupies its own wondrous world within the confines of its jazz borders.”
As jazz critic Brent Black describes: "There is an incredible warmth to Vitchev's playing, a fluidity of movement and direction held firmly in place by a stellar quintet that provides ample support for the lyrical imagery created on this release. Aside from the superior sound which almost smacks of a live in the studio recording, there is a true working band feel that Vitchev has been able to obtain. Vitchev displays an unparalleled versatility moving from the flash of "The Acropolis" to the more introspective "The Southern City" allowing for a wonderfully paced recording. The drumming of Joe DeRose creates a special dynamic tension on the tune "The Great Hall." A release that ends far too soon. Wonderfully crafted, well paced and a sonic tapestry that stands up as well as any release for this past year."
As jazz critic Bruce Lindsay describes: “The music, performed by a terrific quintet, is beautiful: it captures images not of a city in ruins but of a city full of life, of vibrant activity. The Perperikon Suite is an impressive creation. Each individual tune is beautifully crafted, but so, too, is the Suite as a whole. Vitchev's response to the ancient city is remarkable in both its conception and its performance.”
As jazz critic Michael Bailey describes: “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.”
As jazz critic Brad Walseth describes: “The new songs are the strongest Vitchev has written yet, and the addition of Tamburr serves to take the music to an even higher level. Vitchev, meanwhile, continues to impress the listener with his addictive blend of jazz with touches of classical, Brazilian and Eastern European influences in both his playing and songwriting. In lieu of visiting the legendary site yourself, listeners are urged to take a musical journey to the ancient location as seen through the senses of Hristo Vitchev and shared with you through his highly satisfying musical presentation.”
As jazz critic Ed Blanco describes: “Hristo Vitchev and his inspirational quintet provide an all-new experience on The Perperikon Suite, a concept album that is accessible, creative and a pleasure to spin often.”
In 2012 Hristo embarks on yet another musical chapter of his life. Heartmony is the long awaited and highly anticipated follow up to the first duet recording by the guitarist and pianist Weber Iago (The Secrets of an Angel). As the title of the record will suggest, Heartmony explores a truly intimate, honest, and emotional conversation between the two instruments. The music, which transports you from impressionistic landscapes to folkloric tales and from melancholic memories to meditative trances, is simply the purest harmonious sounds Vitchev has put on tape up to date. Straight from the heart, healing energy that will embrace you long after you listen to it.
"If ever there were a marriage between classical music and jazz then this Heartmony is it. Hristo Vitchev and Weber Iago have created a very special experience." - Grady Harp (Amazon.com)
"Both on and off the bandstand, Vitchev is an artist who wears his emotions on his sleeve. His new "Heartmony," a duo session with his frequent collaborator, Brazilian pianist Weber Iago, provides a master class in the way a chord or harmonic progression can evoke a flood of sensations." - Andrew Gilbert (San Jose Mercury News)
“Guitarist Hristo Vitchev and longtime collaborator, pianist Weber Iago, have created a work of sublime musicality with Heartmony. Exquisitely lyrical, although a bit too sweet, this opus brings together multiple musical influences into a coherent and cohesive, multilayered narrative, the momentum of which does not slack from the first few notes to the very last. Vitchev and Iago interweave long musical threads into a shimmering soundscape of serene beauty.” – Hrayr Attarian (All About Jazz)
As jazz critic Brent Black describes: "Heartmony is a sonic mosaic pieced together from heartfelt feelings and emotions carried through time and communicated in an incredibly heartwarming and emotional presentation that exemplifies the zen concept of less is more perhaps as well as any recording of the last decade. The musical sound of one hand clapping. Vitchev and Weber's music transcends the more traditional jazz idiom in much the same fashion that their recorded work here is that of a more cohesive unified voice with subtle shadings, lyrical swells and the textured nuances that creates music that is to be experienced. An incredibly beautiful artistic statement of personal experience."
"Guitarist Hristo Vitchev and pianist Weber Iago sounds like a perfect match in a musical heaven, if such things exist. What I’m saying here is that this is a duet album that sounds perfect, music made from the heart and soul. There’s warmth, there’s care, and there’s a human quality to this that no machine can replicate, and it is that Heartmony that makes this a powerful album worth listening to repeatedly." - John Books
As jazz critic Dan Bilawsky describes: "The eleven originals are all musical offerings from the heart and soul, but this isn't a one-dimensional recital. Some songs are full of life and positive energy, while others have a sense of regret and nostalgia sewn into their being, but they're all painted in sharp, vivid colors, thanks to the skills of both artistic practitioners at play."
“This set of guitar-piano duets is quietly emotional, always intriguing and quite original. Vitchev’s clear toned guitar blends in perfectly with Iago’s powerful piano and the two musicians often seem to think as one. Heartmony is quite thought provoking and well worthy of many close listens. Highly recommended.” - Scott Yanow
"Vitchev and Iago play together with the assurance born of long and fruitful collaboration. They know each other well, and it shows in the skillful way they complement each other. They take a beautiful melody and run with it. They wring every bit of emotion out of it. There are passages in a composition like "Memories in Black and White," nocturnal moments in "The Last Leaves which Fell in Fall," that sound like they could have been written by a nineteenth century Polish Romantic. Then there are moments in the same songs where there are glints of French Impressionists." – Jack Goodstein (blogcritics.com)
“Hristo Vitchev is a gifted composer and master guitarist whose stylish approach to the music makes him a hidden wonder of the jazz world. Heartmony is an intelligent musical statement and gentle follow up to his previous works, a relaxing soulful musical experience sure to touch a piece of your heart.” – Ed Blanco (E-JAZZ NEWS)
"The meeting between two artists can represent an exchange of ideas and disciplines, as well as a sense of fellowship. Both are evinced in Heartmony, the second duo release from guitarist Hristo Vitchev and pianist Weber Iago; a collaborative follow up to 2009's The Secrets of an Angel on Vitchev's First Orbit Sounds label. With an air that's reminiscent of guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Lyle Mays' simpatico, the eleven tracks include Vitchev's "The Farewell Suite," music inspired by reflections on his personal life. With touches of melancholic beauty and striking adventurism, the suite imparts an expansive and rural-like quality that is analogous to observing a picturesque landscape. One of the suite's most memorable tracks is "The Imperative Expression," a meditative reflection that Vitchev states "as the idea that somehow life goes on and that we have to deal with and accept such changes." The track's persona comes to life in a quiet procession—first with Iago's persistent chords, then by Vitchev's acoustic guitar—as the two repeat and improvise over the melody. It is atmospheric, introspective, and the perfect prescription for a stressful day." - Mark F. Turner (All About Jazz)
"Guitarist Hristo Vitchev is a musician of a rare type: one who makes music composition sound easy. As evidenced by his intricately complex The Perperikon Suite (First Orbit Sounds, 2011), it isn't as easy as it seems. On Heartmony, Vitchev teams with his regular collaborator, pianist Weber Iago, for a suite of duets that are as challenging as they are sumptuous and beautiful. Prelude to Crepuscular Rays/Crepuscular Rays does not so much blur the genre lines between jazz, world and new age as render such categorization inconsequential. It is music for music's sake, delivered with quiet, even delicate, aplomb that can serve as ambient music, or melody fully engaged. Vitchev and Iago reveal the intimacy of their musical vision through the hand-in-glove simpatico they share. Vitchev's gentle guitar tone melds with Iago's light, percussive playing, making one golden tone. With "Prelude to Crepuscular Rays/Crepuscular Rays," potential goes kinetic in an organized cascade of harmony and melody." - Michael Bailey (All About Jazz)
“The two opening ballads, “Under Trees of Color, Over Fields of Grey” and “Musica Humana”, combine chamber jazz expressionism and harmonic invention. Vitchev works in both electric and acoustic mode, creating different sonic characteristics with fluidity and intricacy. Iago's classical influences are sometimes flickering, sometimes intense. He creates a pastoral setting that evokes Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. Both Vitchev and Weber play as extensions of each other, individually and collectively guiding each piece with increasing but subtle complexity. Vitchev and Weber, having played together in larger groups, have clearly developed an ease in playing sophisticated and appealing music that is far more complex than it first appears. They skillfully suppress and build momentum within rich, shadowy twists of their main theme. As structured as Heartmony is, it is necessarily structured to keep a proper balance between the technical and the expressive. Nevertheless, these are compositions in which improvisation is as prevalent as the profound musical and harmonic insights.” - Karl Ackermann (All About Jazz)
In January 2013, Hristo Vitchev released "Familiar Fields" - his 5th record as a leader (and his 2nd quartet recording). The music presented in this session clearly displays the multidimensional tonal evolution of the band and each one of its individual members. The addition of drummer extraordinaire Mike Shannon to the quartet establishes a portal to new sonic landscapes and emotions to be explored in this collection of 9 original pieces by the guitarist. The music, which takes the listener through the realms of impressionistic, classical, jazz, experimental, and new age, always retains the unique sonic footprint that has brought critical acclaim to the quartet all over the world.
“Once again Vitchev has produced an immaculately crafted, often supremely beautiful album.” – The Jazz Mann (England)
"If Pat Metheny and Larry Carlton are considered the kings of impressionistic jazz guitar, then certainly Hristo Vitchev is a crown prince and ready to lead a palace coup. In fact, “Familiar Fields” easily stands equal to even their greatest albums. Part of the reason for that has to be credited to Hristo’s choice of musicians in the quartet. The musical affinity and effortless grace shines forth on this album like few recordings I have ever heard. They share a single heart and mind that bursts forth in illumination on every track. There is no weak moment or weak player on this album." – Travis Rogers (JazzTimes)
"Over the past few years, Bulgarian-born, Bay Area-based guitarist and composer Hristo Vitchev has consistently crafted music of great lyrical beauty. With his self-named quartet or quintet, or in duet with pianist and frequent collaborator Weber Iago, Vitchev has advanced a sound that manages to sound intimate and epic at the same time. He does so again on Familiar Fields (First Orbit Sounds), his latest recording with his quartet, which welcomes new member Mike Shannon on drums. As he has on previous recordings, Vitchev makes use of classical imagery and narratives in song titles such as “The Prophet’s Daughter,” “The Mask of Agamemnon” and “Wounded by a Poisoned Arrow,” the last of which is our selection. Vitchev’s instrumental voice bears echoes of the tonal warmth and big-sky sweep of Pat Metheny, as he and Iago, his beyond-simpatico musical compatriot, switch off on leads, riding the rolling hillocks of rhythm provided by Shannon and acoustic bassist Dan Robbins. Shannon proves an exceptional addition to the group, responding to and driving his companions in equal measure." - JAZZIZ
As jazz critic Hrayr Attarian describes: “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. 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.”
"Familiar Fields is a highly intelligent, thought-provoking Impressionistic escapade." - Nicholas Mondello (All About Jazz)
“This release is a clear statement from an artist comfortable with who he is and where he is going. There are no absolute truths in music but instead there are shades of gray which Vitchev and his quartet fill in with the precision of a surgeon and the soul of a true artist. Never caught up in the academics of his works, Vitchev instead conducts a sonic exploration with the end result being a release that gives up something new with each subsequent spin. An ebb and flow unmatched, or perhaps unlike Vitchev, an ebb and flow that other artists simply can not match. As close to perfect as it gets!” – Brent Black (CriticalJazz.com)
“The Hristo Vitchev Quartet, ladies and gentlemen, is in peak form. They have no competition: no other music in the jazz idiom is quite as satisfying.” - Grady Harp (Amazon.com)
"The musical bond between guitarist Hristo Vitchev and pianist Weber Iago is as strong as that of Chick Corea and Gary Burton, with proof being their two sublime duet recordings, The Secrets of an Angel and Heartmony, as well as three small group sessions under Vitchev's name. For the Familiar Fields quartet date with regular bassist Dan Robbins and new drummer Mike Shannon, Vitchev chose nine gems to play from his vault of more than 270 original compositions. As usual, as one listens to Vitchev's music, the words lyrical, impressionistic, spiritual, and passionate come to mind, and also Vitchev's term heartmony, which he defines as the simultaneous combination of feelings and emotions, especially when produced by experiences, memories, and stimulations pleasing to the heart, body, and soul." – Scott Albin (JazzTimes)
“The emotional essence of any Hristo Vitchev recording can be seen before it’s heard via the distinctive oil paintings the guitarist creates for his CD jackets. Vitchev’s artwork for Familiar Fields is impressionistic, haunting and autumnal, the same qualities that characterize his latest collection of tunes. The foursome’s interplay is highly intricate, resulting in emotive tunes that wax and wane in intensity. Whether you call it post-bop or post-fusion, Vitchev’s brand of jazz is passionate and ethereal. He has developed into a formidable guitarist and intelligent composer, and since he’s only 32 years old, his best work may be yet to come.” – Ed Kopp (Jazziz)
“Within Vitchev’s tone and technique, it’s not difficult to hear the influences of Wes Montgomery, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour. He is adept at the full range of extended techniques but is most often described - justifiably - as an impressionist.” – Karl Ackermann (All About Jazz)
“Of the many attributes that Bulgarian (San Francisco based) guitarist Hristo Vitchev possesses - refined technical abilities, warm tonality, and expressive soulfulness - his gift to convey beautiful stories through intricate composition is always at the heart of his appeal.” – Mark F. Turner
On top of leading his own quartet, quintet, duo projects, and co-leading the group SEVA, Hristo Vitchev also co-writes and plays guitar with Joe De Rose and Amici - an energetic jazz/fusion formation lead by drummer Joe De Rose. Hristo Vitchev has appeared on countless radio shows/programs all around the world.
Hristo has also performed in world-class jazz venues and festivals including Yoshi’s Jazz Club (Oakland, CA), Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society (Half Moon Bay, CA), Kuumbwa Jazz Center (Santa Cruz, CA), Anthology (San Diego, CA), Catalina Jazz Club (Hollywood, CA), The Jazz Corner (Hilton Head Island, SC), Heidi's Jazz Club (Cocoa Beach, FL), Alvas Showroom (San Pedro, CA), Timucua White House (Orlando, FL), Ivories Jazz Club (Portland, OR), The Herbst Theater (San Francisco, CA), SOhO Jazz Club (Santa Barbara, CA), as well as major jazz festivals including the 53rd Monterey Jazz Festival (Monterey, CA), 2009/2010/2012 AT&T San Jose Jazz Festival (San Jose, CA), 2010 and 2012 Redwood City “Jazz on Main” (Redwood City, CA), Okazaki Jazz Festival (Okazaki, Japan) and many more.
Liubomir Krastev specialized in clarinet in the class of Professor Sava Dimitrov and graduated from the Music Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1984. Later he worked at the symphonic orchestra in his hometown of Rousse and was the driving force of music life in his town and his country. His performances as a soloist are numerous, as well as his appearances in chamber ensembles.