Bulgaria is arguably the Olympus of jazz and traditional music in Southeastern Europe, as well as the nexus for a unique blend of these two music styles. When a Bulgarian musician plays jazz, he brings his own musical history into his interpretations of the classics. Each new composition reveals his deeply rooted sense of, and love for, traditional Bulgarian sounds. But then why has the cream of Bulgaria’s jazz talent since the 90’s been driven to choose exile over certain poverty -‐ to the delight and benefit of the rest of the world?
Universally renowned Jazz aficionados, including Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Wyton Marsalis, Joe Lovano and Phil Collins, have for years enjoyed the artistry of top young Bulgarian jazz musicians. These days it is not unusual to hear the sweet sounds of young Bulgarian trumpeters and saxophonists improvising to a 7/8 beat on stages in Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and New York. There are good reasons for this: Before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jazz musicians in Bulgaria risked imprisonment for playing jazz, whether it was John Coltrane or Dixieland. Clearly not the best foundation for a jazz scene.
Later jazz became “ghettoized” to the universities, banished from cafes, concert halls and streets. There was only one major Bulgarian jazz artist to break out in this early period - Milcho Leviev, who emigrated in 1970 to Los Angeles. Leviev developed into a dominant arranger of American jazz, working with giants of the international jazz scene, including among many others Don Ellis & Billy Cobham. But for many years, Leviev was the sole visible export to represent Bulgarian jazz talent overseas. Until now. The Bulchemists is an ambitious project from Ambrol Iglenikov (Joro) –the producer of the annual Balkan Fever Festival in Vienna.
Joro has brought together seven representatives of the younger Bulgarian jazz Diaspora (unquestionably outstanding representatives of the jazz scenes in their chosen exile cities) to record one unforgettable album: “Bulchemistry”. Like any perfect stew, each of these Bulgarian artists infuses this project with their own special flavour. They have all studied in a wide variety of international locations, and also played with very different jazz musicians. What makes these musicians additionally unique is how they have maintained their very deeply rooted relationship to the melodies and rhythms of Bulgarian ethnic music.
Coming together from all corners of Europe and the US, but still rooted in Bulgaria, these individual artists at the height of their talents will together create a powerful new music project.