Plamen Karadonev

Crossing Lines

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Recent years have seen several continental European piano virtuosi enter into the modern jazz world, among them Jacky Terrasson, Eldar Djangirov, Fahir Atakoglu, and Rami Khalife. Add the name of Boston based and Bulgarian native Plamen Karadonev to the list -- a clearly brilliant technician and theorist who adds a Slavic flavor to his music influenced by McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, and Chick Corea. He's a classically trained pianist as most evidenced in his original "Prelude in F" and also aware of the hard boppers and American Popular Song standards. Karadonev brings a ton of energy, chops, intelligence, and invention to his music. This is a diverse program of modern music, expressing his training, heritage, fondness for distinctly American jazz, and a need to mix things up from track to track. The opener "Crossing Lines" is a showstopper, with buzzing, skittering melody lines from Karadonev merging with the electronically enhanced trombone of Hal Crook. Similar to the EWI synthesizer of the Varitone of Eddie Harris, the trom-o-tizer is a harmonic tone splitter, which sounds great alongside Karadonev, or the sax of George Garzone during the hard bopper "Frohleher Landman." Garzone is the perfect choice to interpret "Like Sonny," for few know Sonny Rollins or the composer John Coltrane as Garzone does. The other truly outstanding cut, "Rondo Ala Bulgar," has a circular motion to it, similar to work of Karadonev peer Robert Glasper. It has a Balkan feel, some startling, modal-styled inventive musicianship from Karadonev, and calms in the middle on a 12/8 passage before concluding. It deserves repeat listenings. There are three vocal tracks featuring Elena Koleva; the pretty waltzing "Sianie," "You Must Believe in Spring" done as a children's spirit song, and "The Island," which seems out of place considering Karadonev's cameo on electric keyboards. A spare, placid, modal piano-bass-drums take of "Night & Day" is also included. If this is a portent of things to come (listen closely to his long piano solo during the title cut), Karadonev, with just a sprig of some added taste, seasoning, and maturity, has all the potential to become a major figure in jazz and world music for many years to come.

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