Born in Bulgaria but living in America, Theodosii Spassov does things with the native kaval, or shepherd's flute, that no sheep ever imagined. He breaks down the barrier between the folk music of his country -- working in complex traditional meters like 5/16 and 11/16 -- and jazz, playing with a fluidity and invention that brings to mind Rahsaan Roland Kirk, while still remaining rooted in the Eastern European melodies of his childhood. It makes for an intoxicating mix, especially when Spassov turns to his vocals, a type of mouth percussion that has echoes of India in its rhythmic style, very evident on "Tudorka." His backing band adds a great deal to the music, with Roumen Toskov on piano playing in a post-Monk style that perfectly complements Spassov's freewheeling manner. However, for all that it sounds like jazz to Western ears, Spassov has insisted it's simply contemporary Bulgarian music, and maybe he's right. In taking traditional elements and revitalizing them, he's making a new form of Bulgarian music, alive and vital. Interspersed with the pieces of music are found sounds from Sofia, Bulgaria's capital, which ground the music even more, placing it firmly within a context and geographic frame. But however you categorize it, Spassov makes gloriously adventurous music, a virtuoso on his instrument with an imagination as large as the sky.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson