Yasko Argirov,
Hot Blood
(Felmay, 2002)

Yasko Argirov, a clarinet player from Bulgaria, has released his second album, Hot Blood. This CD explores the music of the Balkans, specifically tunes of Gypsy origin. Much of the music is high-spirited and fast-paced, although Yasko and his band manage to slow down occasionally so you can catch your breath.

While much of the music is centered around traditional folk music and rhythms from the region, improvisation seems to be the order of the day. Consequently, many pieces that start out with an easy-to-follow melody often break up in to a frenzied cacophony. When the music is easy to follow, it is actually pleasant to listen to. But once the musicians let spontaneity be their guide, the atonal path these selections take might be a turn-off as it is hard for your ear to keep up with the seeming randomness of the notes.

Yasko Argirov is joined on the CD by his childhood friend Slavko Lambov, who plays accordion. During improvisational moments, you can tell these two have been interacting with each other for decades as they do truly complement each other's playing styles. Other musicians that round out the band include Nikola "Kolo" Argirov on alto sax, Danko Kristef on keyboard, Ilya "Alo" Argirov on drums and Maksim Nicolu, who contributes vocals to the short song "Gorbet" (one of the better pieces on the album).

The CD also contains a 12.5-minute video clip that is interesting to see -- once. It contains footage of Yasko and his band playing a concert to a very appreciative crowd as well as interviews with Yasko and Slavko. The interviews are translated into English at the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, half the text is hard to read as the letters blend in with the scenes. However, the same information is pretty much repeated in the CD liner notes. What I liked about the video clip is that you can watch the subtle interaction of Yasko and Slavko during an improvised duet. As I noted earlier, you can tell these two have years of experience with each other.

Hot Blood contains eleven tracks -- ten of which are instrumentals -- that will only appeal to a very select group of listeners. Those of you who enjoy Bulgarian Gypsy music, accordions and clarinets, and/or have the ability to hear inspiration in the chaos of improv might want to check this out. For the rest of us, I do not think this CD will find a happy home in many collections.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 16 June 2002

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