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Ivo Papasov and Yuri Yunakov 

Together Again: Legends of Bulgarian Wedding Music (Traditional Crossroads)

Wednesday, Oct 12 2005
The reunion of world-renowned Romani (Gypsy) instrumentalists Ivo Papasov (clarinet), Yuri Yunakov (saxophone), Neshko Neshev (accordion), and Salif Ali (drums) after more than a decade apart is being target-marketed in the States as "Bulgarian Bebop," which is just plain wrong. Granted, the combo's irrepressibly vibrant updates on the Balkan folk tradition share high-velocity tempos, tricky time signatures, and tortuous melodies with the signature soundtracks of jazz legend Charlie Parker, but unlike bop, this "wedding music" is patently designed for the dance hall. It's about drinking deep from an endless bottle of spirits, smashing glasses against a fiery hearth, kicking up boots and skirts, and whirling arm in arm until blazing night yields to weary dawn. Despite their calculated arrangements and virtuosic improvisations, tracks like "Oriental" (derived from popular Turkish grooves), "Filips Kyuchek" (a deftly syncopated rollick in 9/8), and "Kurdzhaliiska Ruchenica" (a Slavic-Bulgarian jam with evocative key changes) are fundamentally a visceral experience. So if there's any jazz comparison to be made, it must point toward turn-of-the-century New Orleans, when a multiplicity of dynamic voices rose up in the streets and showed the public how to shake its collective ass.

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Sam Prestianni


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