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Yuri Yanakov and Ivo Papasov: Together Again

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Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Yuri Yunakov and Ivo Papasov. If the latter names don’t carry the historic cachet of the other legendary musical partnerships–in this country, at saxophonist Yunakov and clarinetist Papasov were undisputed giants during the 1970s and ’80s of the Bulgarian wedding music scene, a crazy quilt genre that freely blends various ethnic folk styles, jazz and rock into a exhilarating sonic kaleidoscope. Yanakov then relocated to the U.S., breaking apart the duo. Together Again marks the former bandmates’ first collaboration in a decade. The world may change, but musical ties can remain unbroken: Yunakov and Papasov still respond to each other with blood-brother rapport.

Understatement plays a minor role in this music. Both Yunakov and Papasov are full-throated players with gutsy sounds that could cut across a wheat field, let alone a dance floor. Although their undiminished technical skill is never in question–their unison melody statements call to mind a mingling of Diz and Bird on “Shaw Nuff” and the vintage riffs of the Mahavishnu Orchestra–passion rules when it comes to the co-leaders’ improvisations, their solos kicked into overdrive by drummer Salif Ali, a master of the oddly metered rhythms that propel the performances, and the virtuosic accordionist Neshko Neshev. Dance fever, it seems, has struck again.