The San Jose Mercury News - Hristo Vitchev

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the music of Joe Pass. Wes. Montgomery and particularly. Pat Metheny, while studying with the great Portland-based guitarist John Stowell. But it was pianists ...
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mover, shaker onscene*:?*:i'mi,,, Guitaristfinds his jarrgroove in SouthBarz ByAndrewGibed for theMercury Naos

Like many young guitarists, Hristo Vitchev nursed rock star dreams; but on his winding musical journey he found himself seducedbv jazz's enigmatic harmonies and crystalline textures. Insteadof slingingdistortionJaden guitar pyrotecirnics,he has emerged as a. supple, melodically inventive composer with a gentle nylon string touch. Like many of the artists associated with the label EeM who have influenced his sound, Vitchev employs siience strategicall;r, so that eachnote feelscarefullyweighedand balanced. It's an approachthat callsto mind Bill Evans, ;rid not surprisingly he cites the legendarypianist as a primary source of inspiration. "Keith Jarrett is another one of my biggest influences,"saysVitchev,29,who celebrates tire releaseof his debut CD. "Songfor Messambria,"on June7 at City Lights Theater. The concert is part of San Jose Jazz'sJazz Showcaieseriesfocusing on up-and-comingbands,andVitchev performs with.the same highly syrnbathetic cast ihat's featur6d bn'the album, including the brilliant Braziliar pianist Weber Iago, Santa Cruz bassist Dan Robbins and San Joseraiseddrummer JoeDe Rose. "Esbjdrn , Svenssorl's minirnallqt approach also touches me,'l says Vitchev from his home-in San Jose, referring to the late Swedishpianist who led the tremendously popular jazztrio E.S.T."He showedwhat vou can do with the interpretation and executionofone or two notes." Not that Hristo has totally given up his rock'n'roll mojo.He performs on Sundav afternoon with the hardSeeVITGHEV,Page21


HristoVitchev developed hisiazz chopsasa SanJoseStatestudent.

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hitting band Joe De Roseand Amici, part of a jazz-fusion double bill at the tittle Fox that also features drummer Wally Schnalle's dynamic combo with guitarist Jeff Massanari. Vitchev, De Roseand Iago started playrng together in an unlikely setting as the touring band for Italian tenor PasqualeEsposito.While the "popera"arrangementsdidn't leave any space for improvisation, the accompanistsgot a chanceto know eachother, and_Vitchev sought out Iago Ior a new proJect. "I couldn't tell how sreat he was Joecause there wisn't space for him to show anything with Esposito,'l 'ssyg Iago, who recently relocated from the Monterey area to Portland.Ore."OnceI did the quartet, I could see what an interesting player and composer he is. He seemsto be very fascinated by the ECM soundin terms of texturesand rhythms. The compositions are very well constructed. Though Hristo doesn't claim to be really versed in Brazilian music, sometimes he plays lines that naturally fit choro and samba.r' Born in Bulgaria and raised in Venezuela,Vitchev moved to the Bay Area with his 1998when they were hired as engineers in Silicon Valley. He got interested in the guitar through

g/ pzzwww.sanJ oseJazz.or rock, and describeshis intro- snowcase. duction to jazz as slow and Also:Hr,isto Vitchevplaysthis haltins. SundaywithJoeDeRoseand "So-mebody would play Amici asoartof doublebill me great Joe Pass or Charat Redwood City'sLittleFox lie Parker recordings, and I withtheWallySchnalle Group. thousht their chor-d extenTicketsfor the4 p.m.showare sionJwere out of tune," he $16-lUat says. "My ear wasn't gravitating to that." composingis more fascinatHe still harbored rock ing than playmg. It involves star ambitions when he won the same elements as ima scholarship to Boston's provising, but you can stop Berklee College of Music, time. You can look back and but attendingthe prestigious changewhat happened." school proved to be too exSince frrishing his degree pensive,so he returned home at San Jose State in 2006, and enrolled at San Jose Vitchev has becomea mover State. On the secondday of and shaker on the South Bav class, he encountered"the scene, helping organize I charismatic music profes- Wednesdaynight jam session sor Frank Sumares,who has at Temple Bar (which now nurtured severalgenerations takes place at the De Anza of talentedmusicians. Hotel's Hedley Club). He "He's an encyclopedia supports himself by teaching of jazz, and meeting him privately and has toured Jachanged my life," Vitchev pan with De Rosebacking the says. "I think he has a gift. Japanesejazz singerYoshiko The inspiration he gives you Oda. His latest proiect is an can last a lifetime." intensive collaboration with When some friends took Iago, an impressionisticduo him to hear John Scofield at they documented in the stuYoshi's in 2002, the bluesy dio earlier this month. guitarist provided an ideal "We'll probably open the bridge from rock to jazz for City Lights show with some Hristo. He started absorbing duets, and then bring out the the music of Joe Pass.Wes band," Vitchev says."The duo Montgomery andparticularly explores a little bit more of Pat Metheny, while studying the classicalside, using long with thegreat Portland-based compositional forms with inguitarist John Stowell. But it terludes. It's difficult to plav was pianists who caught his in that format becausevou'r"e ' ear ashis compositionalvoice very exposed.ts developed. Judging by his first album, '(.Ido all the writine on the Vitchev is due for a good deal Piano,l'\/16.1t"usaYs.-Tor me more exposure.

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