Heartmony-- Hristo Vitchev & Weber Iago

Pianist Weber Iago has appeared on all four of guitarist Hristo Vitchev's CDs to date, with the new Heartmony being the second duo recording. Like last year's notable quintet release, The Perperikon Suite, Heartmony contains Vitchev compositions that have an air of familiarity about them, no doubt due to their distinctive contours and logical construction. Vitchev defines "heartmony" as "the simultaneous combination of feelings and emotion, especially when produced by experiences, memories, and stimulations pleasing to the heart, body, and soul." What with the uncanny rapport that Vitchev, a San Francisco resident by way of Bulgaria, has with Iago, a Vancouver, WA, dweller originally from Brazil, the beauty and grace of the guitarist's eleven creations for this session were easily and assuredly brought to the fore.

"Under Trees of Color, Over Fields of Grey," the first of the many pieces with an evocative title, begins with Iago's swirling circular phrase before a more meditative riff that serves as the theme. Vitchev's solo is in the realm of long-lined Pat Metheny lyricism, while Iago's flows with engaging flair. Each supports the other in perceptive fashion as well. The loping theme of "Musica Humana" is introduced again by Iago with an irresistible left-hand figure to boot. The pianist's solo is both soulful and celebratory. Vitchev's relentlessly driving solo is enveloped by Iago's piano and percussion. The wistful "Memories in Black and White" shows the pair breathing as one in both their unison and contrapuntal playing. The improvs of both musicians are sustained outflowings of the imagination.

"The Last Leaves which Fell in Fall" possesses a dreamy soundscape that fits the title perfectly, as the hope and lushness of spring and summer subside in a long, resigned sigh of regret and acceptance. Vitchev, on acoustic guitar here, and Iago succeed brilliantly on this selection. The upbeat nature of "Crepuscular Rays" seems to describe the twilight of a very full and satisfying day. Vithcev's solo is replete with determined, overlapping extended declarations, all performed with a gorgeous ringing sound. The theme is again one that lingers in the mind afterwards. Iago's soothing wordless vocalizing in the concluding section is an added gift to the ears.

"The Farewell" consists of three parts. "Prelude to an Act of Departure" has a folk-like melody, sentimental and appealing. "The Imperative Expression" is imbued with a soft, glistening quality, and is reminiscent of vibraphonist Joe Locke's classic tune "Saturn's Child." Vitchev's melodious solo is quite moving, with Iago's firm ostinato backing. The pianist's solo is one of controlled, cascading passion. For "And May We Meet Again," Iago's piano and percussion merge with Vitchev's resounding electric guitar in an hypnotic manner that eventually fades to silence. Steve Reich minimalism comes to mind.

The CD closes with two more connected tracks. "Prelude to a Melancholic Heart" features strummed acoustic guitar and adamant piano figures, which alternate with more impressionistic passages. Elongated bass lines reoccur to both frame and propel the unison, winding theme readings of "The Melancholic Heart." More up tempo than most of the other tracks, with Vitchev and Iago in all out flight in their unbridled solos, this gem brings to an end on a high note an absolutely wonderful recording.

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Scott Albin