Of the many attributes that 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. With Familiar Fields, Vitchev’s fifth studio release as a leader, the album represents in his words “my musical evolution of the past five years.”
From the ebullient swing dance in “Wounded by a Poison Arrow” to thoughtful introspection in “They Are No More” or the poignancy of “Willing to Live” dedicated to Vitchev’s grandmother, the music consistently exudes an intimate and positive aura. The set revels empathetic charts, consummate musicianship, and the guitarist’s exceptional rapport with longtime band members—bassist Dan Robbins and pianist Weber Iago, and newcomer to the group, drummer Mike Shannon.
The zenith of the recording is the two-part “Familiar Fields” of which part I (“Departure”) contains a temperate rhythm that builds momentum via lengthy solos and a lively exchange between Iago and Shannon at its closing. Yet it’s the gorgeous melodic shift in part II (“Return”) that remains in memory that opens with a tender repeating phrase from Iago before developing into the robust theme. Multicolored hues from Robbins‘s arco and a wonderfully creative solo from Vitchev make this one of the many highlights and results in another fine release from an excellent guitarist and composer whose music is always captivating and merits wider recognition.
by Mark F. Turner (Jazz Critic/Journalist)
First Orbit Sounds Music
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