Project like this one makes me proud to be Bulgarian! I enjoy thoroughly the way Bulgarian folk music lives a new life in Bebop jazz. Both genres benefit from one another in their successful partnership.
Favorite track: Chul Uzh.
“Be-Bop-Hop-Trop” is the third album by Jazzanitza. Here, Borislav Petrov attempts to create an amalgam between Bulgarian instrumental folklore and bebop music by writing original melodies over the chords of well-known bebop tunes.
The band Jazzanitza translates some of the most distinctive features of Bulgarian folk music – asymmetric rhythms, ornamented melodies, and vernacular sensibility – into the language of contemporary jazz. This project, led by drummer Borislav Petrov, dates back to 2008 and a number of exciting jazz musicians from different countries and generations – Antoni Donchev, Dimitar Liolev, Ludmil Krumov, Vladimir Karparov, Raya Hadzhieva, Lyubomir Tsanev, Alex Simu, Yaniv Nachum, Tony Roe, Ben Van Gelder, and others – have been a part of it.
“One of the biggest challenges I have encountered over the years was fusing these two very different musical languages without simply superimposing one onto the other in a very literal way. All of us who took that journey had to learn three things at the same time: – we had to get better at playing jazz, we had to get better at playing folk, and we had to get better at playing them simultaneously. We rephrased jazz standards into Bulgarian dance rhythms, we played folk phrases in jazz solos, we ornamented jazz melodies, we reharmonized Bulgarian melodies with jazz chord progressions… we came up with all kinds of strategies just to be able to get these two distinct musical worlds to communicate better. “Be-Bop-Hop-Trop” was born by a similar experiment. In the beginning, I took the melodies of bebop tunes and rephrased them so they could rhythmically fit various asymmetric meter structures. However, this sounded somehow gimmicky. Some listeners thought I was parodizing either jazz or Bulgarian folk music. My longtime friend and musical collaborator Dimitar Liolev advised me to take a step further and actually write original melodies over the new rhythmic structures that occured, but get them to sound closer to typical folk tunes. The result was much more satisfying. I managed to maintain the character of Bulgarian dance music while still providing the improvisational playground of bebop. At times, I challenged the musicians in the band who now had to navigate bebop language with Bulgarian phrasing in shifting odd meters. This stirred some heavy sighs and groans, but in the end everyone did an amazing job. I sincerely hope that bebop lovers will get the urge to jump and dance to the Bulgarian rhythms, which is what the expression “hop-trop” stands for!”